Bald-faced hornets are fascinating insects that belong to the yellowjacket family. These social creatures build paper-like nests from chewed wood fibers and can be found in various parts of North America.
Understanding their behavior, particularly their travel range, is essential for both appreciating their role in the ecosystem and managing any possible threats they may pose to humans.
An essential aspect to consider when studying bald-faced hornets is their foraging behavior. These insects venture out of their nests in search of food and nesting materials.
While it is challenging to pinpoint the exact distance they travel, knowing their typical foraging range can help us prevent any unwanted encounters and protect their natural habitats.
Bald Faced Hornets Overview
Description and Identification
The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is a type of yellow jacket and is known for its distinctive black and white markings.
Queen hornets are just over an inch in length, while workers measure around 3/4 inches. They have ivory-white faces and are sometimes referred to as white-faced hornets.
Life Cycle and Reproduction
Bald-faced hornets have four life cycle stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The legless grub-like larvae are reared inside the cells of the nest.
For example, a queen lays eggs while workers are responsible for feeding the larvae.
Habitat and Distribution
Bald-faced hornets are found mainly in the eastern half of the U.S. and southeastern Canada.
They build large papier-mâché nests, which can be as big as a basketball, in trees, shrubs, or under the eaves.
The southeastern U.S. is home to these hornets, although they exist across the country.
|Size (Queen)||Just over 1 inch|
|Size (Worker)||3/4 inch|
|Color||Black with white markings|
|Other names||White-faced hornet|
|Life cycle stages||Egg, larva, pupa, adult|
|Habitat||Trees, shrubs, under the eaves|
|Distribution||Eastern U.S., southeastern Canada|
Foraging Habits: How Far Do Bald Faced Hornets Travel from Their Nest For Food?
Bald-faced hornets feed on a variety of pests like aphids, caterpillars, and even their yellowjacket relatives. As pollinators, they also consume nectar.
The worker bald-faced hornets are responsible for foraging and expanding the nest.
Their foraging range is generally within 100 yards of their nest, which is built on trees, shrubs, or man-made structures.
Their foraging range helps:
- Deter pests from the property
- Maintain their nest’s safety
- Provide enough food for their colony
Time of Activity
These wasps are most active during the spring and summer months when they expand their colonies and forage. They emerge with warmer temperatures and are active throughout the day.
Bald-faced hornets’ activity time:
- Spring and summer months
- Daytime activity
Comparison of Bald-faced Hornets and Yellowjackets
|Range from nest||Within 100 meters||Similar|
|Diet||Aphids, caterpillars, nectar, yellowjackets||Insects and sweet food sources|
|Time of activity||Spring and summer, daytime||Spring to Autumn, daytime|
|Impact on property||Beneficial insect, deters pests||Can be aggressive, pest control|
|Nest construction||Aerial, paper-like material||Ground or aerial, paper-like material|
Remember to be cautious if you encounter these insects, as they can be aggressive if their nest is threatened. Appreciate their beneficial aspects while respecting their space.
Bald-faced hornets are fascinating insects that have a complex social structure and a remarkable ability to build paper nests. They are also important pollinators that help various plants reproduce.
However, they are also notorious for their aggressive behavior and painful stings, which can pose a risk to humans and animals. Therefore, it is important to know how far they travel from their nest and what they eat, so that we can avoid getting too close to them or attracting them with food sources.
Bald-faced hornets can travel up to 100 yards from their nest to find nectar, fruit juices, and soft-bodied insects. They make frequent trips back and forth, so they won’t go too far if they don’t have to.
However, if they sense a threat near their nest, they will attack with their smooth stingers that can sting repeatedly. Their stings can cause pain, swelling, itching, and inflammation, and sometimes severe allergic reactions.
- https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/controlling-bald-faced-hornets-and-yellow-jackets-in-and-around-structures ↩
- https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/bald-faced-hornets ↩
- https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/baldfaced-hornets/ ↩
- https://extension.psu.edu/baldfaced-hornet ↩
- https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/controlling-bald-faced-hornets-and-yellow-jackets-in-and-around-structures ↩
- https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/preserving-and-displaying-hornets-nest ↩
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Bald Faced Hornet Queen builds Nest
Bald Face Hornet Building New Home
April 15, 2010
Good morning! I discovered this nest being constructed last night on my deck. So far I only see one hornet. The bald face is competing with the introduced European Hornet (we are in pine tree/pulp tree area).
In fact, I have video from last year where the bald face chases the european away. but I digress.
I don’t want to help the European hornet win, but I also don’t want the bald face to build so close to the house. I need to remove this nest before she lays eggs, etc. Any idea what we can do to encourage nest building out near the trees in my yard, and not on my deck!?
I know taking her nest down will not kill her, and that is what I will do, as soon as she heads out for more material. She buzzed my head this morning while I was taking the attached photos!
p.s. if resolution too high, let me know, and I will compress for you!
Cleveland, TN (near Chattanooga)
This queen Bald Faced Hornet matured and mated last fall and then passed through the winter in hibernation. Now that spring has arrived, she is building her nest out of chewed wood pulp to start a new colony.
Bald Faced Hornets are social wasps and the mature colony will contain hundreds of workers toward the end of summer. We agree that having this nest too close to the home may result in someone getting stung, and you are wise to remove this nest before it contains any workers.
We applaud your thoughtfulness regarding the desire to preserve this noble species, albeit not in too close of a proximity to your home.
Letter 2 – Bald Faced Hornet Nest
Location: Abbotsford, British Columbia
September 13, 2011 7:49 pm
I was trimming the plants around that area and I happened to touch the lilac tree without seeing this basketball size nest very well camouflaged among the leaves.
I got stung by two bees!It literally knocked me on my butt. I was lucky I discovered the nest the following day! It took the welt on my arm 3 weeks to heal. The nest is visible because my husband had a trimming pole and cut some branches away.
What sort of wasps are these? Very aggressive!
Hi again Frenchie,
This is the nest of Bald Faced Hornets, and while they are not considered aggressive, they do defend the nest. We posted another image of a Bald Faced Hornet Nest early early this morning after returning from work.
They seem to like lilac bark for nest building material. They chew the bark to produce a papery substance.
Letter 3 – Bald Faced Hornet Nest
Subject: Bald faced hornet nest
Geographic location of the bug: Washington D.C. Metro area, USA
Time: 07:57 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: A couple weeks ago I was surprised when I noticed a “beehive” (I know they’re not bees) newly under construction right to the side of my garage. I was really surprised because it’s being built ON the siding! I was able to find out it’s a bald faced hornets nest.
Now I need to figure out what to do about it. From what I’ve researched it should only be the Queen in there right now…which would explain why I’ve only ever seen one hornet on it.
I don’t wanna kill her like everyone keeps telling me to but I do need to remove it. What is the best way to do so where I’m not gonna get killed by this thing or kill her?!
*I may have a slight irrational fear of all things “bee”.
The first pic I included is of the nest about three days ago. The second pic is just to show where on the house the nest is located.
How you want your letter signed: Christine O.
We can see by the images you provided that this Bald Faced Hornet nest is positioned so it is near the entrance to your home. Hornets are social wasps that will defend the nest.
While we acknowledge your quandary regarding this matter, alas we do not provide extermination advice. We would advise you to act before the queen Bald Faced Hornet’s first brood become adults as the workers will help her to defend the nest.
Letter 4 – Bald Faced Hornet Nest
First encounter with Bald Faces
Found your site looking for info on what folks commonly call
“hornets”. I found this nest accidently and almost reached into it. It is about 3ft from ground level and in a holly tree. I find them very placid, and don’t seem to be aggressive at all like the ground yellow jackets, I would not have gotten away being that close with that species!
They are very busy in the morning though but dart around me like I am not there. Thought you would like this photo. I am going to try to keep them around to Winter freeze, if my Wife and/or Father-in-law don’t kill them first.
It is wonderful to hear about your tolerance. We love your photo of the paper nest of the Bald Faced Hornet.
Letter 5 – Bald Faced Hornet Nest
Aggressive, black and silver like metallic colored bees
My mom and I found this bees nest in our Redwood tree about a week ago. About two weeks prior part of the redwood tree fell down and as we were cutting it up, my mom started being attacked by the bees. At first I thought they were a carpenter bee until I found the nest.
They are very aggressive, all we have to do is go near the tree and they will attack. I tried to get a good enough picture of one. However, I am hoping you might be able to get an idea of them just by seeing the nest. You can kind of see the bee coming in and out of the nest.
They look black and almost a whitish silver like color. they also pack a painful sting. We are located on Whidbey Island in Washington State. Any help in identifying these bees would be greatly appreciated. Thank you
Puget sound area, Washington State
These are not bees. They are Bald Faced Hornets, social paper wasps. They are not aggressive if their nest is not threatened. We imagine they are a little sensitive right now as their treetop home has fallen to the ground.
Letter 6 – Bald Faced Hornet Nest
Subject: Wasp Nest
Location: Southeastern North Carolina (Swampland)
November 17, 2012 4:27 pm
I live in southeastern North Carolina. My dad got attacked by a bunch of wasps when going to his deer stand this fall. He didn’t get stung (supposingly) but he described the wasps as very aggressive and swarming.
Here is a picture of the nest. He said they were bees, but upon looking on the nest, Im pretty positive they are bees. Someone called them ”bee-wasps” and apparently thats something different from yellowjackets. Here is the picture!
Letter 7 – Bald Faced Hornet Nest
Subject: wasp nest?
Location: Everett, Wash.
July 14, 2017 5:58 pm
this nest is in the eaves above the front door of my house, which is in the Seattle area.
it’s a wasp-like nest, but I’m not seeing much about black wasps?
I was planning to leave it alone but it just attacked and stung my roommate with no provocation (he was doing lawn work.)
now I’d at least like to know what they are? thanks …
This is a Bald Faced Hornet Nest, and like other social wasps, they will sting to defend the nest, but they are not considered aggressive.
This nest is already a considerable size with many workers that will help defend the nest. Should you decide that you need to remove the nest for safety reasons, we would suggest getting a professional.