Dealing with a bald-faced hornet nest can be a daunting task for homeowners.
These insects are known to build large, papery nests, and while they play a role in controlling other pests, their aggressive nature can pose a risk when they establish nests close to human activity.
In this article, we’ll discuss some key strategies to safely remove bald-faced hornet nests and prevent future infestations.
One effective method of dealing with a bald-faced hornet nest involves enlisting the help of a pest control professional.
Their expertise in killing and removing the hornets and their nests ensures a safer and more thorough solution.
If you choose to tackle the problem yourself, it’s crucial to approach the nest with caution, ideally during the coolest part of the night when the hornets are less active.
When attempting removal, one strategy includes carefully slipping a large plastic bag over the nest, closing the bag around the limb above the nest, and cutting the limb from the tree.
To eliminate the hornets inside, place the entire sealed bag into a freezer overnight. This method minimizes the risk of hornet stings and ensures you can dispose of the nest safely.
Understanding Bald-Faced Hornets
Bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata), also known as white-tailed hornets or white-faced hornets, are easily identified by their distinctive appearance.
These insects are larger than most wasps, with workers measuring approximately 5/8 to 3/4 of an inch long. Their bodies are primarily black with white markings on their abdomen and face.
Bald-faced hornets display several unique behaviors, including:
- Vigorous defense of their nests
- Ability to squirt venom from their stinger into the eyes of intruders, causing temporary blindness
Despite their aggressive behavior, bald-faced hornets can also benefit the environment by controlling caterpillar and other insect populations.
Bald-faced hornets are commonly found across North America, with a significant presence in the southeastern United States.
They build their nests using a paper-like material derived from chewed wood. The nests can be found in various locations, such as Trees, Shrubs, Sheds, Houses and Utility poles
Bald-faced hornets are predators that actively hunt other insects, including:
Their diet makes them beneficial as they help control pest populations.
The life cycle of bald-faced hornets consists of four stages:
- Egg: The queen lays an egg in each cell of the nest.
- Larva: The egg hatches into a larva, which is fed by the adult workers.
- Pupa: The larva eventually forms a cocoon and becomes a pupa.
- Adult: The adult hornet emerges from the pupa and continues working in the nest or becomes a new queen.
A summary table for bald-faced hornets:
|Size||5/8 to 3/4 inches|
|Color||Black with white markings|
|Habitat||Paper-like nests in various locations|
|Diet||Caterpillars, flies, and spiders|
|Unique Behavior||Venom-squirting defense mechanism|
Identifying and Locating the Nest
Bald-faced hornet nests are typically gray, sphere-shaped structures made from paper-like material.
These nests can range in size, but they’re often quite large and easily noticeable.
The outside of the nest features a textured pattern due to the layers of the papery material.
Common Nesting Sites
Bald-faced hornets build their nests in various locations, including:
- Trees: They often construct their nests on tree branches, which provides them with a safe and elevated location for their colony.
- Shrubs: Sometimes, you can spot their nests at ground level on shrubs.
- Structures: Occasionally, they will build nests on sheds, houses, or utility poles.
Observing Hornet Activity
When attempting to locate a bald-faced hornet nest, it’s essential to observe their activity.
These hornets are usually more active during the day, flying in and out of the nest as they collect food and materials for the colony.
By observing their flight path, you can often trace it back to the nest’s location.
However, it’s crucial to maintain a safe distance while observing, as these hornets can be aggressive when they feel threatened.
Safety Precautions Before Removal
Before attempting to remove a baldfaced hornet nest, ensure you are wearing proper protective gear:
- Bee veil: Covers your face and neck
- Suit: Covers your entire body
- Gloves: Protect your hands
Stinging Risks and Allergies
Keep in mind that baldfaced hornets can be territorial and may sting when threatened. Their stings can be painful, so be cautious.
People with known allergies to stinging insects should never attempt nest removal on their own, due to the risk of severe allergic reactions.
Timing and Observation
Choose the right time for the nest removal. Hornets are less active at night, making it a safer time to approach the nest.
Before attempting removal, observe the nest from a safe distance to identify the entrance hole and the hornets’ activity pattern.
|Aspect||Hornets||Other stinging insects|
|Activity timing||Less active at night||Varied|
|Sting(s)||Can be painful||Varied|
|Allergies||Risk of allergic reaction||Risk of allergic reaction|
How to Get Rid of Bald Faced Hornet Nest
There are various methods to get rid of baldfaced hornet nests using do-it-yourself techniques.
One of the most common methods is to spray the nest with a wasp and hornet aerosol insecticide at night when the hornets are less active.
Make sure to wear protective clothing, such as a bee veil, suit, and gloves.
- Immediate action
- Potential danger from stinging hornets
- Incomplete removal may lead to future infestations
Professional Pest Control
Hiring a pest control professional is highly recommended for safe and efficient removal of baldfaced hornet nests. Here’s a brief comparison:
|Criterion||DIY||Professional Pest Control|
|Future Infestation Risks||Possible||Lower|
- Trained professionals ensure safe removal
- Lower risk of future infestations
- Custom treatment plans
- Higher cost
- Possible wait time for appointments
Preventing Future Infestations
Conducting regular inspections of your property is crucial in early detection and prevention of hornet infestations.
Inspect areas like eaves, gutters, and trees for signs of nests or hornets. Some indications to look for include:
- Papery nests
- Adult hornets flying around
- Damage on leaves or flowers
Eliminating Attractive Environments
To make your property less inviting for hornets, focus on eliminating their favorite environments:
- Remove fallen fruit and debris from the garden.
- Seal garbage cans and keep them clean.
- Control aphids and other insects that serve as food for hornets.
Consider planting less preferred plants near more vulnerable plants, such as insect-repelling herbs.
There are several repellents available to deter hornets from nesting on your property. These repellents can be natural or chemical-based. Some options include:
- Natural: Peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, or soapy water
- Chemical: Pyrethrum-based spray insecticides1
|Natural||Environmentally friendly||Less effective in extreme cases|
|Chemical||Fast-acting, effective||May be toxic, harm beneficial insects|
Choose a repellent that meets your preferences and weigh its pros and cons to ensure effectiveness and safety.
Dealing with a bald-faced hornet nest is no small feat, but armed with the right information and precautions, it’s a challenge that can be safely and effectively managed.
Whether you opt for professional pest control services or decide to undertake a DIY approach, the key is to act thoughtfully and carefully.
Remember, these hornets play a role in our ecosystem, but their proximity to human activity can pose risks that are often best mitigated sooner rather than later.
We’ve covered everything from identifying the hornets and their nests to various removal techniques and safety precautions. But our guidance doesn’t end at removal; we’ve also provided you with tips to prevent future infestations, making your property less inviting to these stinging insects.
So, whether you’re a homeowner dealing with a first-time infestation or someone looking to prevent a recurring issue, we hope this article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding, removing, and preventing bald-faced hornet nests. Stay safe, be prepared, and good luck!
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: Queen and nest eliminated
Bald-Faced Hornet – Early stages of nest development + larva
First of all…love the site. I used it to figure out what I had after I captured it. Turns out, I probably should have been a bit more cautious. Anyway, a pair (it appears it was a new nest) of bald-faced hornets were building a nest in my Azalea bush.
I spent the morning trying to capture a few good shots. Since I couldn’t allow them to build the nest, I had to destroy them. I did take the opportunity to dissect the nest after I knew the adult was dead (the other one is still out there).
I found larva in various stages of development and still very alive. I snapped several photos and thought they might be useful on your site.
The Jobe Family
Dear Jobe Family,
While we understand that if you have young children playing in your yard, you might not want to risk them accidentally disturbing a Hornet’s Nest and getting stung, the Bald Faced Hornet is not an aggressive species unless its nest is threatened.
Please understand that we understand you probably have extenuating circumstances necessitating the nest removal, but we still need to file your letter under Unnecessary Carnage.
Though the demise of the Queen Bald Faced Hornet and her brood saddens us, we are very happy to have the excellent documentation you have provided.
“Madder than a Hornet’s Nest” has become a metaphorical term for a good reason, but having a nest of Hornets in a garden is an excellent way to organically control grasshoppers, caterpillars and other insects that are feeding on your plants.
That’s unfortunate that it’s going to be categorized that way. It was in a bad spot (by our front door in the Azalea bush) so I really didn’t want to risk it growing large with my 3 children around.
I do go to extremes to try an organically control the bug population for our garden and home. I do this by introducing praying mantis egg cases around our home to provide natural remedies. Anyway, still love the site. Best Regards,
Hi Again Scott,
We fully understand the extenuating circumstances of your situation (front door, three children) and this nest removal was justifiable, but we would be remiss if we did not mention to our readership that they do not need to remove a Hornet’s Nest from the backyard.
Knowing where a nest has been placed and respecting the inhabitants results in peaceful coexistance. Disturbing the nest results in painful stings.
Letter 2 – Bald Faced Hornets and Magnolia Scale
Black Bee or Fly nesting in multiple tree branches
July 22, 2009
I have about 50 to 100 what I believe to be bees that have taken over a Magnolia tree 2 years running in Maryland. The appear to have shown up in the last few weeks. They do not care that I am observing them and do not approach me.
They also have a these pod like nest all over the tree limbs that appear to be killing the leaves on the tree (black mold like takes over and then kills the leaf).
If they behave like last year they will multiple quickly and will make it really difficult to eat on our patio. The last picture is a fly swatter but the insect was only stunned and few away after the picture.
You have two different insects and only one is a real problem. The Bald Faced Hornets, Dolichovespula maculata, are paper wasps and they build a nest of chewed wood pulp.
They are social wasps with a queen and they will defend their nest, potentially stinging the threat multiple times. They are visiting your magnolia tree to feed on the sticky honeydew excreted by the Magnolia Scale, Neolecanium cornuparvum, that is infesting your tree.
the bumps on the branches are the mature female Scale insects and the sooty black mold is growing on the sticky honeydew that is secreted by the Magnolia Scale insects.
Here is how the Ohio State University Factsheet on Magnolia Scale reads: “The magnolia scale, Neolecanium cornuparvum (Thro), is one of the largest and most conspicuous scale insects known to occur in Ohio.
Adult females may reach nearly 1/2-inch in diameter when fully grown. The scale is shiny tan-brown and smooth. As the scales grow, they are often covered with a white mealy wax. This wax is lost at the time that the crawlers emerge.”
Here is how the Penn State Entomology Page describes damage due to Magnolia Scale: “Magnolia scale prefers attacking star magnolia, Magnolia stellata , cucumbertree magnolia, M. acuminata , lily magnolia, M. liliiflora and saucer magnolia, M. soulangeana .
They also attack other cultivars but usually with less frequency. Scale insects damage plants by removing plant fluids. Heavily infested trees can be seriously injured or killed by this species.
A reduction in foliage and flower production may result from an infestation. Twig and branch dieback may also occur. Twigs of the host plant that are normally light green appear enlarged and purple from a massive magnolia scale infestation.
This soft scale also secretes large amounts of honeydew which gives the plant an unsightly appearance; black sooty mold develops on the sticky honeydew. The honeydew attracts large numbers of ants, wasps, yellowjackets, and other noxious insects.”
If you rid your tree of Magnolia Scale (see the sources we have linked to) you will also be rid of the Bald Faced Hornets. See BugGuide for more information on the Bald Faced Hornets.
A Comment about Bald Faced Hornets
docile bald faced hornets?
July 23, 2009
I have to say that i am quite shocked about the recent post about bald faced hornets and magnolia scale.
I work in a cemetery on Long Island NY and about three years ago we had a big problem with bald faced hornets, they were everywhere, and very nasty….without provocation….they would attack if you got ANYWHERE close, i alomst got hit in the face from a nest 25ft up in a tree….and they would always attack your face/head.
Unfortunately they all had to be irradicated due to visitor safety. Curios why they would be so aggressive? Maybe the proxcimity to NYC! hahaha
As we stated in our original response, the Bald Faced Hornets get very protective of their nest and are most likely to attack and sting if the nest is threatened, or if they perceive the nest to be threatened.
In Scott’s case, there was no nest in the magnolia tree, so the Bald Faced Hornets were docile.
Letter 3 – Bald-Faced Hornet: Queen and new colony
OK, I live in Huntsville, AL (North Alabama) at approximately 1250 ft above sea level. This insect has made a nest on the porch. I believe it to be a hornet of some sort, but what type?
It is about 1.5 ” long. The nest is about 4 inches in diameter. There is only a single wasp inside, but there are several larvae. Thanks!
Bald-Faced Hornets, Dolichovespula maculata, are not really aggressive, but they will defend their nest (which is composed of chewed wood pulp) fiercely, stinging repeatedly.
If there was a nest on our front porch, we would be very cautious, especially once the colony becomes well established. We have read that large nests can accomodate 10,000 individuals.
Your colony is being started by a fertile queen. The first broods will be infertile workers. Males and young Queens will be produced in the fall and workers and males along with the old queen will die.
The fertilized queen passes the winter and begins a new colony in the spring. Adults frequent flowers and will eat fruit. They pre-chew insects to feed the young.
Letter 4 – Baldfaced Hornet at Hummingbird Feeder
Feeding the Cicada Killers
Location: Cumberland Plateau, rural southeast Tennessee
August 14, 2011 4:42 pm
We have recently had at least two wasps, which I believe are Cicada Killers, feeding at our Hummingbird feeders. I noticed that you had a photo of one feeding on a tree and mentioned not having many photos of them feeding.
Trust me that the hummingbirds are not amused to have these visitors chase them away from their perches at the feeder! Thanks as always, for your continued work.
Signature: Bob Kieffer
You have mistaken this Baldfaced Hornet for a Cicada Killer. We once accused them of being aggressive, but we have since softened our assessment.
Baldfaced Hornets are not an aggressive species, however, they are social wasps and they will defend their nest from any perceived threats. See this posting for an image of a large paper nest.
Letter 5 – German Yellow Jacket Nest
March 23, 2010
This nest is in our attic. I have never seen anything like this before and it totally CREEPED me out when I noticed it in the attic.
It can not bee seen from outside the house. I didn’t get to close to it. Please help…. major heebie jeebies right now.
Renton Washington USA
This appears to be the paper nest of a Bald Faced Hornet. The nests are only used for one season, and the colony dies shortly after new queens and males are produced.
After mating, the queen builds her own nest and the old nest is not reused. The European Hornet, an introduced species, is not reported from Washington, according to BugGuide.
Correction Courtesy of Eric Eaton
March 28, 2010
Here are a couple of other corrections:
The “bald-faced hornet nest” in the attic in Washington state is definitely not built by Dolichovespula maculata. They nearly always build their nests in exposed situations on the exterior of buildings, in trees, blackberry canes, etc.
This attic nest is almost certainly that of the German yellowjacket, Vespula germanica, which is now firmly established in Washington state.
Keep up the great work, Carlos…I mean Daniel:-)
LOL! I loved that post from Lisa….
P.S. Hey, next year, when your book is out, we should go in on a table at the Bug Fair and do signings!
possible misidentification of a wasp nest in an attic
April 8, 2010
RE: Post by Andrea March 23, 2010
Renton Washington USA
Having removed several similar nests – both live and old – from attics, both near Renton WA (Kent) and here in Ellensburg, WA, and judging by the redish colors [cedar?] and the ornate, curly-Q sculpting of the paper I suspect that this nest is probably made by Vespula vulgaris, “the Common Yellowjacket.”
The “German Yellowjacket”, Vespula germanica, which also nests opportunistically in attics and crawl spaces tends to construct nests of grey paper.
Thanks for this information Shawn.
Letter 6 – Bald Faced Hornet’s Nest
Wasp identification needed
First things first – GREAT SITE!! Trying to do a what’s this? on the “new tenants” at the farm. My husband and I finally got back up to the farm (truck repairs – done! 🙂 ) and on our drive around he spotted these guys in the shrubs.
Not quite sure what they are. Definitely wasps, maybe hornets. They have a white face and their abdomen is white with black stripes. The nest is “paper” and approximately 12″ x 12″ = HUGE.
We weren’t too fired up about getting real close, although I was tempted (another good picture for me) and we kept the windows up in the truck! They’ve been working on this about 4 weeks, at least that’s how long it’s been since I was here – trimming the shrubbery.
Thank you much,
Debora and Randy W.
Person County, North Carolina
Hi Debora and Randy,
By all means, do not try to get us a close-up of the Bald Faced Hornets, Vespula maculata, busily building their nest. They are very aggressive and defensive of their nest. They will sting repeatedly if disturbed.
Letter 7 – Bald Faced Hornet’s Nest
Big, Beautiful Bald Faced Hornet Hive
August 4, 2009
Spotted this hive near our neighborhood swimming pool. It’s up fairly high as you can see in the first image. Hopefully no one will disturb it. My kids and I enjoyed watching all their activity from across the street.
Through my last photo I believe I’ve identified these wasps as Bald faced hornets. I’m curious if they will leave the hive in winter? If so, will they return or would it be okay to take the hive down?
Resa in Atlanta
Bald Faced Hornets are amazing wasps and we are happy to hear you have decided that you can coexist with them. If the neighborhood pool is a public pool and the nest is on state or city land, we suspect some concerned parent may request that it be removed for safety.
We would also be concerned that some children might try to climb the tree to disturb the nest as Bald Faced Hornets can get very aggressive if their nest is disturbed.
Throwing rocks at the nest, which children may be inclined to do, could also have dangerous ramifications. The Bald Faced Hornets will not sting unless provoked, but provocation can happen.
We are quite happy to hear that your own children are being educated about these majestic creatures, but sadly, all households in an urban environment are not so inclined.
Come winter the hive will die off and after mating, the new queens will find a warm place to hibernate so a new nest can be started in the spring. Bald Faced Hornets to not reuse old nests and the nest in your photos will be abandoned.
We were just alerted to a recent online story entitled Invasive Yellow Jacket Wasps Altering Haleakala Ecosystem in the Honolulu Advisor about introduced Western Yellowjackets in Hawaii.
These are also annual wasps that typically build small nests each year, but the climate in Hawaii has allowed for multi-generational use of the nests which are becoming quite large.
When species are introduced to a new environment with a different climate and no predators, the indigenous species often suffer.
Letter 8 – Bald Faced Hornets Nest
Subject: Bald Faced Hornets
Location: Mill Bay, BC
September 1, 2015 5:24 pm
Thought you would like to see these pictures of bald faced hornets and their basketball sized nest on Vancouver Island.
My friend was picking apples and this was about three feet away he said. I thought they were quite aggressive, but it is a cool day today so maybe he was lucky.
Signature: Sharon Jackson
Bald Faced Hornets are not considered aggressive, but they will defend the nest by stinging, and multiple stings would be painful and could possibly trigger an allergic reaction in some people.
Thanks, Daniel. I guess the webpage I was reading was not as smart as you are! J
They sure are big buggers, though, aren’t they??
Letter 9 – Bald Faced Hornets Nest
Subject: What kind of nest is this?
Geographic location of the bug: Near roof under eaves
Time: 08:10 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: We found this nest under the roof of our house in northern Illinois
How you want your letter signed: Zena
This looks like the nest of a Bald Faced Hornet in its early stages of construction. When complete, it will be about the size of a football.
According to Bee Friendly: “Bald Faced Hornets become active each year in the early spring (March-April) when the fertile Queen comes out of her underground winter den and begins to forage on flies and other insects, including smaller wasps and bees, while she scouts for a nesting site for the coming year.
The new colony will typically build up its population, through the Spring and Summer months (May-Sept), to an average number of 700 members. During the cooler weather of the Autumn (late Oct.)
the colony will produce short lived male wasps and fertile females that will then mate and seek out hibernation dens for the winter.The entire colony will eventually die off in mid to late November when the prey insects have all disappeared.”
Hornets will not reuse an old nest. Hornets are social wasps and they will defend the nest. Hopefully the nest is high enough in the eaves that human movements will not alarm the inhabitants. They will sting to protect the nest.