Bald Faced Hornet Sting: Essential Facts and Remedies

Bald-faced hornets are large wasps known for their distinctive black and white markings, particularly on their faces.

Found in most of the 48 contiguous United States, as well as throughout Canada and Alaska, these insects build large, gray, papery nests in trees and other elevated locations.

Despite their intimidating appearance, they can be beneficial insects that help keep populations of caterpillars and other pests under control.

Bald Faced Hornet Sting: Essential Facts and Remedies
Queen Baldfaced Hornet

However, it’s essential to be cautious around baldfaced hornets due to their potent sting. A sting from a baldfaced hornet can result in immediate pain and swelling at the site, with additional sensations such as burning and itching.

In some individuals, the swelling may worsen and affect a larger area, causing discomfort and potential complications.

While these stings are similar to those of other social bees and wasps, it is crucial to recognize the potential dangers and maintain a respectful distance from their nests.

When dealing with baldfaced hornets, it’s useful to understand their behavior and take appropriate precautions.

For example, these wasps can be more aggressive when their nest is threatened, making it essential to avoid disturbing their habitat.

By exercising caution and appreciating the benefits these insects provide in controlling other pests, we can safely coexist with baldfaced hornets in our landscapes.

Bald-Faced Hornet Overview

Physical Characteristics

The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is a large wasp species belonging to the Vespidae family of arthropods. Notably, these hornets are:

  • Black with white markings on their face, thorax, legs, and abdomen
  • Workers measuring around 3/4 inches in length
  • Queens being just over an inch long

Habitat and Distribution

Bald-faced hornets can be found across North America, primarily in the United States and Canada. They are known for:

Blackjacket or Bald Faced Hornet???

Here’s a comparison of the bald-faced hornet and a similar species, the northern giant hornet:

FeatureBald-faced HornetNorthern Giant Hornet
Size of WorkersApproximately 3/4 inch in lengthAround 1.5 inches in length
Facial ColorationLight color face with dark markingsMostly yellow face

Bald-faced hornets play a beneficial role in the ecosystem. They are:

  • Predators of other insects, providing natural pest control
  • Pollinators for various plants

Although they can be helpful, bald-faced hornet stings can be painful. It’s important to treat them with caution and not to disturb their nests.

Identification and Comparison to Other Stinging Insects

Baldfaced hornets are commonly mistaken for other stinging insects due to their physical similarities. Identifying them correctly is essential to avoid unnecessary fear and to take appropriate precautions.

The abdomen of a baldfaced hornet is primarily black with white markings. They possess black antennae and six legs, which are also black in color.

Baldfaced hornets differ from other stinging insects such as yellow jackets and paper wasps. Some features to consider include:

  • Yellow jackets usually have a yellow and black-striped abdomen and are from the Vespula genus.
  • Paper wasps have a slender body, brownish-red color, and long, dangling legs.

Infections from stings are possible but rare. You can treat most stings by cleaning the area and applying cold compresses to minimize swelling. An antibiotic ointment might be necessary in case of a severe reaction or infection risk.

Bald Faced Hornet

Stinging insects, like baldfaced hornets, tend to be more active during late summer. It is crucial to identify them to avoid accidentally provoking them or misidentifying them.

Here’s a comparison table of the main differences between the insects mentioned:

CharacteristicBaldfaced HornetYellow JacketPaper Wasp
Abdomen ColorBlack with white markingsYellow and black stripesBrownish with thin yellow bands
AntennaeBlackBlackBlack or brown
LegsBlackYellowBrown
Body ShapeRobustRobustSlender

In conclusion, remember these key identification points when observing stinging insects:

  • Baldfaced hornets have a black and white-striped abdomen.
  • Yellow jackets are yellow and black-striped.
  • Paper wasps are brownish-red with long legs.

Aggressiveness and Attack Triggers

Baldfaced hornets are less aggressive than honey bees and yellow jackets under normal circumstances.

However, they do have a few specific triggers that can provoke them to attack:

  • Nest disturbance: Hornets will fiercely defend their nest if they sense any vibrations or perceived threats nearby.
  • Intentional or accidental contact: Accidentally stepping on or swatting at a baldfaced hornet can trigger them to attack.
  • Repeatedly approaching their nest: Even without physical contact, repeatedly coming too close to their nest can be enough to cause agitation and provoke a defensive response.

Bald Faced Hornet

Baldfaced Hornets vs Yellow Jackets and Honey Bees

 Baldfaced HornetsYellow JacketsHoney Bees
AggressivenessModerateHighLow
Sting PainHighHighModerate
Feeding HabitsCaterpillars, soft-bodied insects, nectar, fruit juicesInsects, meat, sweet foods, nectarPollen, nectar
Active time of dayDaytimeDaytimeDaytime

When bald-faced hornets do attack, their sting is extremely painful and can even cause swelling in the mouth and throat in some cases.

In a unique defensive behavior, they can also squirt venom from their stingers into the eyes of nest intruders, which is both painful and temporarily disorienting.

Bald Faced Hornet Stings: Medical Implications

Symptoms and Reaction Severity

Bald-faced hornet stings inject venom that may lead to various symptoms.

Reactions can range from mild to severe, depending on the individual and number of stings. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itching

In more severe cases or for those with allergic reactions, symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Chest tightness or wheezing

Treatment and Home Remedies

For mild to moderate reactions, some home remedies can help alleviate symptoms:

  • Ice: Apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a cloth to reduce swelling and numb the pain.
  • Elevation: Elevate the affected area to minimize swelling.
  • Clean: Gently clean the sting area with soap and water.
  • Over-the-counter medications: Use pain relievers, antihistamines, or anti-inflammatory medications to manage pain, itching, and swelling.

Bald Faced Hornet builds Nest

When to Seek Medical Attention

In certain cases, it’s crucial to seek medical attention right away.

When experiencing any of the following symptoms, immediately call for emergency medical care:

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • Rapid heartbeat or pulse
  • Swelling of the face, throat, or tongue
  • Severe dizziness or fainting
  • A widespread rash or hives

It’s important to remain vigilant to prevent stings, especially for those with a known allergy to hornet venom.

Wearing protective clothing and avoiding areas with high concentrations of stinging insects can help minimize the risk of stings.

Conclusion

Bald-faced hornet stings can cause severe pain, swelling, itching, and inflammation, and in some cases, life-threatening allergic reactions.

Therefore, it is important to know how to identify them, how to treat their stings, and how to prevent them from stinging you in the first place.

By following the tips and advice in this article, you can protect yourself and your family from these aggressive insects and enjoy the outdoors without fear.

Remember, if you encounter a bald-faced hornet nest, do not try to remove it yourself. Call a professional pest control service instead.

They have the expertise and equipment to safely and effectively get rid of the nest and the hornets. Stay safe and stay away from bald-faced hornets!

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about baldfaced hornets. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Bald Faced Hornet

It’s eating my fence
Hello, Bugman:
I happened upon your site today for the first time. It1s wonderful!! I looked for this bug in your wasp section and I think that it1s a Bald Faced Hornet. But, why is it eating my fence?
Thank you.
Mary Ann Sumner
Miller Beach, Indiana

Hi Mary Ann,
Bald Faced Hornets are Paper Wasps. They chew wood pulp to make the paper for their nest. She is using the wood fiber in your fence to create wood pulp and then paper.

Letter 2 – Bald Faced Hornet

Not Sure
Hello
I just found your web site as a “Site Of The Day” a was facsinated by the variety of bugs people see around there homes everyday. As it happens I had just taken a picture of a rather interesting looking Wasp/Bee in my backyard and was unsure what type it was.

I checked in your site and could not find another that looked like it. I am from Belleville, Ontario, Canada and would appreciate any insite as to what this picture is of.
Thank You in Advance
Brian

Hi Brian,
This is a Bald Faced Hornet, one of the social paper wasps. Adults eat nectar and fruit juices. They are very protective of their nests, but otherwise not aggressive. Out of curiosity, who listed us as a Site of the Day?

Letter 3 – Bald Faced Hornet

Identity?
Is this aggressive insect a bee or a hornet? It is black and white and is new to my yard this year.

The Bald Faced Hornet, Vespula maculata, is an extremely aggressive social insect. They are extremely protective of the nest which is made of chewed wood pulp, hence paper, and will sting repeatedly.

Chastised by Eric Eaton regarding bald-faced hornet.
Daniel:
Would you please reconsider your definition of bald-faced hornets as “very aggressive?” I have come right up to a nest before, and was completely ignored by the occupants coming and going and working on the exterior envelope of the nest.

Sure, jiggle the nest and you’d have a major problem on your hands (and face, and the rest of your body:-), but they are quite serene normally, and are NOT the scavengers that other kinds of yellowjackets are. In fact, they prey almost exclusively on flies, so are good to have around.

One more anecdote. We once had a small nest in a camelia bush right next to the front door of the house. Never knew it was there until late fall when we pruned the tree! By then the nest was abandoned.
Have a great weekend. Eric

Letter 4 – Bald Faced Hornet

I think these are honets…
We have an bird feeder (sugar water) that has attracted these bugs this year… we didn’t see them last year and were wondering what exactly they are. Thanks
Jim
Pickering, On, Canada

Hi Jim,
What an awesome image of a Bald Faced Hornet in flight.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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6 thoughts on “Bald Faced Hornet Sting: Essential Facts and Remedies”

  1. I have spent a lot of time around these hornets and found them to be pretty much indifferent to me. I have observed great numbers of them taking nectar from flowers in my grandmothers yard with no interest whatsoever in me. This applies to all vespa i have had experience with. I think the danger levels are greatly overblown, and most violent attacks seem to be from a direct (though usually accidental) interaction with the nest.

    Reply
  2. These guys have bored holes in our tree. I had noticed earlier in the spring and early summer, that the wood peckers and other birds were slightly obsessed with the tree. At this time the bark and truck are in terrible shape, and now, there’s these guys swarming the tree. How do I save our tree?

    Reply
  3. Thank you so much for this important service you provide. I was able to identify this particular hornet seen today among my raspberries and Turtlehead plants. I am beginning to take an interest in the types of pollinators I am seeing in my garden. Trying to build one that provides food and nesting. I live in Markham, Ontario.

    Reply

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