Bald-faced hornets can be a nuisance, and sometimes even a danger, for those who have a nest near their home or yard.
These insects can be aggressive when they feel threatened, and their stings are painful.
The best way to deal with these pests is to understand their habits and find effective methods to eliminate them.
One of the most important things to note about bald-faced hornets is that they are actually a type of yellowjacket, not a true hornet.
They are easily recognized by their black body and distinctive white markings on their head and the last few segments of their abdomen.
When it comes to getting rid of these stinging insects, the key is to target their nests, which are often found in trees or shrubs, and carefully apply the right treatments to avoid triggering their aggression.
Identifying Bald-Faced Hornets
Color and Appearance
Bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculata) are a type of wasp with distinctive coloration. They have:
- Black bodies
- White markings on their heads
- White banding on the last few segments of their abdomen1
Nest Shape and Location
Bald-faced hornets construct gray, paper, sphere-shaped nests with an opening located near the bottom. These nests can be found in various locations, such as:
- Shrubs at ground level
- Trees up to 60 feet or higher
- Sheds, houses, or utility poles4
Diet and Habitat
Bald-faced hornets can be considered beneficial insects due to their diet and habitat preferences. They consume other pests, such as:
- Ground-nesting yellow jackets
- Various other insect species1
Additionally, they can act as pollinators. Here is a comparison table between bald-faced hornets and similar insects:
|Feature||Bald-Faced Hornet||European Hornet||Paper Wasp|
|Color||Black body, white markings||Yellow and brown||Reddish-brown|
|Nest Shape||Gray, paper, sphere-shaped||Oval, papery||Umbrella-shaped|
|Habitat||Trees, shrubs, buildings||Trees, building eaves||Building eaves, fences|
|Size (Length)||0.5 – 0.8 inches||1 – 1.5 inches||0.5 – 1.5 inches|
|Sting||Yes, painful and potentially dangerous5||Yes, painful6||Less aggressive, can sting7|
Understanding Bald-Faced Hornet Behavior and Why You Might Want To Remove Them
Lifespan and Reproduction
Baldfaced hornets have a relatively short life cycle. The queen’s lifespan lasts up to one year, while workers and males live for only a few months.
The reproduction process starts with the queen laying eggs in the nest. She can lay up to 100 eggs at a time, which are cared for by the worker hornets.
Colony Structure and Roles
Baldfaced hornet colonies are comprised of three main roles:
- Queen: The only reproductive female in the colony, responsible for laying eggs.
- Workers: Sterile females that maintain the nest, gather food, and protect the colony.
- Males: Responsible for mating with the queen before dying.
The colony operates in a highly organized and coordinated manner, working together to ensure the survival and growth of the population.
Baldfaced hornets can exhibit aggressive behavior, especially when they feel threatened or their nest is invaded.
As a comparison, here’s a table showcasing their behavior compared to other wasps like yellow jackets and paper wasps:
|Insects||Aggressiveness||Nest Size||Barbed Stingers|
|Baldfaced Hornets||High||Large & Aerial||Yes|
|Paper Wasps||Low||Small & Exposed||No|
Some common triggers for aggressive behavior in bald-faced hornets include:
- Proximity to nests: When humans or pets come too close to the nest, hornets may perceive it as a threat.
- Disturbing the nest: Hornets become aggressive when their nest is tampered with, leading to possible stings.
How to Get Rid of Bald Faced Hornets
Checking for Signs of Infestation
Bald-faced hornets, a type of black and white yellowjackets, build gray, paper, sphere-shaped nests1.
These nests can be found on shrubs, trees, sheds, houses, or utility poles. One way to check for infestations is to inspect your property for such nests during early summer to fall.
Some characteristics of bald-faced hornets to look for when inspecting are:
Using Insecticides and Wasp Traps
If you find a nest, it might be necessary to use insecticides. Make sure to wear protective gear like a bee veil, suit, and gloves when applying insecticides5.
The best time to apply insecticides is at night, as hornets are less active during this time5.
Examples of products/methods to use:
- Aerosol wasp insecticides5
- Wasp traps (for capturing and killing wasps without damaging the nest)
Pros of using insecticides and traps:
- Effective in eliminating hornets
- Traps are a less invasive method
Cons of using insecticides and traps:
- Insecticides may be toxic and harmful to beneficial insects
- Risk of stings if not handled properly
Pest Control Services
In case the infestation is severe or the nest is in a dangerous location, you should consider hiring a pest control expert or exterminator to handle the situation.
Pest control services usually involve inspection, nest removal, and prevention measures to ensure the infestation does not return.
Comparison table of hiring a professional vs. DIY method:
|Professional||Expertise in handling dangerous situations; peace of mind; prevention measures||Cost; depending on availability|
|DIY||Cheaper option; quick action||Risk of stings; may not handle infestation completely|
Dealing with Stings and Allergic Reactions
First Aid and Treatment
When dealing with bald-faced hornet stings:
- Wash the area with soap and water
- Apply a cold pack or ice wrapped in a cloth
- Administer over-the-counter pain relief medication as needed
For stings in pets, consult a veterinarian immediately.
Recognizing Allergic Reactions
Be aware of symptoms of an allergic reaction such as:
- Swelling of the face, lips, or throat
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dizziness or confusion
Anaphylaxis, a severe and sometimes life-threatening reaction, can develop within minutes after exposure to an allergen, including insect stings like the bald-faced hornet or honey bees.
When to Seek Medical Help
Seek medical assistance or call 911 if symptoms of an allergic reaction appear, or if the person has a history of severe allergic reactions.
Quick comparison between bald-faced hornet and honey bee stings:
|Bald-Faced Hornet||Honey Bee|
|More aggressive||Less aggressive|
|Can sting repeatedly||Stinger gets detached|
|Painful sting||Mild to moderate pain|
DIY Nest Removal and Safety Precautions
Protective Clothing and Equipment
Wearing proper protective clothing is essential when handling bald-faced hornet nests. Make sure to wear:
- Long sleeves and pants
- Protective eyewear
- Hat or hood
Additionally, investing in a beekeeping suit or a pest control professional might be a safer option.
Locating the Nest Opening
Locate the nest opening before attempting removal. Take note of the following:
- Hornets are pollinators, active during the day.
- Their nests are usually rugby ball-shaped.
- Hornets have antennae that identify them amongst other wasps.
Observe the nest from a distance to avoid provoking a swarm.
Effective Removal Techniques
Consider the following techniques for removing bald-faced hornet nests:
|Dish Soap||Easier, lower risk||May not be as effective|
|Spraying||More effective||Risky, requires proper protective equipment|
Dish Soap Method:
- Fill a 2-liter plastic bottle with water and dish soap.
- Approach the nest during nighttime when hornets are least active.
- Saturate the nest opening with the soapy mixture.
- Select a pesticide in a pressurized container labeled for wasps and hornets, like this one.
- Approach the nest at night as hornets are less active.
- Spray the nest entrance, attempting to get the poison inside.
Remember that nest removal can be risky. If unsure, consult a pest control professional.
The Importance of Professional Pest Control
Dangers of DIY Removal
Attempting to remove a baldfaced hornet nest on your own can be risky and dangerous. Homeowners may try cutting a limb and dropping the nest into a trash bag.
However, the hornets have strong jaws and can chew through the bag, often resulting in stings. Some hazards of DIY removal include:
- Risk of life-threatening allergic reactions to stings
- Lack of protective clothing for homeowners
- Incorrect identification of the infestation
Benefits of Hiring a Professional
Hiring a pest control professional to handle a baldfaced hornet infestation will ensure a safe and effective removal.
Professionals have the experience, techniques, and equipment to get rid of them. Some advantages of hiring an expert include:
- Proper identification of the infestation
- Use of safe and effective extermination techniques
- Professionals wear protective clothing to minimize risks
- Guaranteed results, reducing the chance of recurring problems
|DIY Removal||Professional Pest Control|
|Risk of injury and stings||Safety measures in place|
|Limited knowledge of infestation||Expert identification and treatment|
|No guarantees for success||Results ensured and follow-up|
Navigating the challenges of a bald-faced hornet infestation requires both caution and knowledge. This guide has equipped you with insights into the hornets’ behavior, nesting habits, and effective removal methods.
While DIY approaches can be effective, they come with risks; professional services offer a safer alternative. Whichever route you choose, acting quickly and safely is paramount.
Remember, when in doubt, it’s always best to consult professionals. Stay informed, stay protected, and good luck.
- https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/good-growing/2022-02-10-baldfaced-hornet-dangerous-bug-or-beneficial-insect ↩ ↩2 ↩3 ↩4
- https://extension.psu.edu/baldfaced-hornet ↩ ↩2
- https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/good-growing/2020-08-27-its-big-its-not-murder-hornet-how-identify-large-wasps ↩
- https://extension.umd.edu/resource/baldfaced-hornet ↩ ↩2
- https://www.terminix.com/blog/bug-facts/stinging-insects-101/ ↩ ↩2 ↩3 ↩4
- https://www.vespavelutina.co.uk/european-hornet/ ↩
- https://www.thoughtco.com/paper-wasp-characteristics-and-control-1968085 ↩
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about bald faced hornets. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Newly Constructed Bald Faced Hornets Nest
Subject: Bald faced hornet nest?
June 7, 2015 5:23 pm
Sorry for posting twice! We wonder if this is a bald faced hornet nest and what you can tell us about it? Thanks!
Signature: Don’t understand
This does indeed appear to be a newly constructed Bald Faced Hornets Nest, and we are supposing that the only flying inhabitant at this time is the queen, though her initial brood is probably developing in the nest now.
Toward the end of the season, the nest will grow to the size of a football, or even larger, and according to The Study of Northern Virginia Ecology: “One nest may hold up to 700 hornets.” Bald Faced Hornets are not considered aggressive, but they will defend the nest and they are capable of stinging.
Thank you for your quick response! It is amazing what bees can do! Let me know if you would like more photos as it progresses. Have a wonderful day! Cheryl
We are happy to hear you are going to let the nest develop. We would love additional images.
We are going to be away until the end of June and not responding to emails in our absence, but by the time we return there should be changes in the appearance and activity around the nest.
Please continue to use Bald Faced Hornet Nest as the subject line.
Letter 2 – Parasitic Yellowjacket
Subject: Bald-faced Hornet or Blackjacket?
Geographic location of the bug: Andover, NJ
Time: 06:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this robust looking hornet at the edge of the woods on our property a couple of days ago. It doesn’t look quite right for a bald-faced hornet to me, although several have insisted that it is one.
I think it looks better for a Blackjacket, which would also be a new species for me.
Can you give me some wisdom?
How you want your letter signed: Deborah Bifulco
We always enjoy your submissions. Quite frankly, we do not know how to easily tell the difference between a Bald Faced Hornet and a Blackjacket, but we are working on getting you an answer.
Our gut instinct is that this is a Bald Faced Hornet. We have contacted Eric Eaton for assistance.
Eric Eaton Responds
Oh, wow, this is neither Bald-faced Hornet nor Blackjacket. It is a social parasite of the Aerial Yellowjacket. It is called the Parasitic Yellowjacket, Dolichovespula arctica. Always a great find!
They are not that common. https://bugguide.net/node/view/14075
and my own blog post: http://bugeric.blogspot.com/2017/07/one-of-these-is-not-like-others.html
author, Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America
Hi again Deborah,
BugGuide also indicates: “The species most easily confused with the Parasitic is the Blackjacket.”
Eric Eaton’s blog posting is very informative, including the statement that the Parasitic Yellowjacket “has no worker caste like the Aerial Yellowjacket, only reproductive females, and males.”
Well, how cool!! I am so glad I sent this to you. I just didn’t think it was a bald-faced, but would never have come up with this identification without your and Eric’s help. Thank you!
Letter 3 – Green June Beetles and Bald Faced Hornets feeding on tree sap
Subject: Tree Party!
Location: Va Beach, VA
July 16, 2015 5:33 pm
June bugs with ??? Wasp? Hornet?
You are correct. There must be sweet sap running from this tree, and sap with its high sugar content is an excellent food for many species of insects, including the Green June Beetles and Bald Faced Hornets in your image. It appears there is also an Ant in the lower edge of your image.