Where Do Bald Faced Hornet Live? A Complete Guide 

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The bald-faced hornet is a unique insect often mistaken for a true hornet. In reality, it belongs to the yellowjacket family. 

Found predominantly in North America, this species stands out due to its distinctive black and white or ivory coloring. 

While its name suggests it’s a hornet, it’s more closely related to yellow jackets than to actual hornets. 

This species is a testament to the diverse and often misunderstood world of wasps and hornets.

In this article, we explore the various places where you can find this intriguing insect.

Where Do Bald Faced Hornet Live
Bald Faced Hornet

Physical Appearance and Identification

The bald-faced hornet exhibits a striking contrast in its appearance, setting it apart from many other wasp species. 

Its body is predominantly black, complemented by white or ivory markings. These markings are prominently displayed on the face, giving it the “bald-faced” descriptor. 

Additionally, the thorax, legs, and the tip of the abdomen also feature these white patterns. The hornet’s size varies, typically ranging from 1/2 to 5/8 of an inch long. 

However, the queen, the largest member of the colony, can reach up to 3/4 of an inch in length

Where Do Bald Faced Hornet Live?

The bald-faced hornet is native to North America. Within the continent, it has a broad geographic distribution, making its presence felt in several places.

Predominantly, they are found throughout the 48 contiguous states, including the District of Columbia. 

While they are widespread, they are most commonly spotted in the southeastern United States. 

However, their range doesn’t stop there. States like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Oregon also report a significant presence of these hornets. 

Their adaptability and resilience allow them to thrive in various environments across these states, making them a familiar sight for many residents. 

Whether in the dense forests of Oregon or the lakesides of Michigan, the bald-faced hornet has marked its territory.

Bald Faced Hornet

Where Do Bald Faced Hornet Live: Their Aerial Homes

Bald-faced hornets are renowned architects in the insect world, crafting intricate nests that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing. 

These nests, often described as football-shaped, are constructed from a paper-like material. 

This material is ingeniously produced by the hornets themselves, who chew wood fibers and mix them with their saliva to create a durable and malleable substance.

The resulting structure is gray and papery, often suspended from tree branches, shrubs, or even the eaves of buildings. 

Inside, the nest reveals a marvel of engineering, with layers of paper cells resembling a honeycomb. 

These cells serve as chambers for the hornets, housing their young and providing protection from external threats. 

The nests can sometimes reach impressive sizes, with some reported to be as large as three feet tall.

An interesting aspect of their nesting behavior is the location choice. 

While they prefer elevated spots, ensuring the nests are at least three feet off the ground, they can sometimes be found as high as 60 feet or more. 

This aerial preference not only offers protection from ground-based predators but also provides them with a strategic vantage point.

However, these architectural wonders are ephemeral

Each year, a new nest is constructed, and the old ones are often abandoned and destroyed by other creatures or weather elements. 

Bald Faced Hornet

Debunking Myths: Do Bald Faced Hornets Live in the Ground?

A common misconception about bald-faced hornets is their nesting habits, with some believing they nest in the ground. 

In reality, bald-faced hornets are aerial nesters. As explained earlier, they prefer to construct their nests off the ground, often suspended from tree branches, shrubs, or building eaves. 

These nests are typically gray, papery structures that can sometimes reach impressive sizes, even up to three feet in height.

Ground nesting is more commonly associated with certain species of yellowjackets, not the bald-faced hornet. 

The distinction is crucial for anyone attempting to manage or remove a nest, as the approach and potential risks can vary based on the species and nest location.

Where Do Bald Faced Hornets Live In The Winter?

Bald-faced hornet queens overwinter in protected locations. 

After mating in the fall, these queens seek shelter in places like hollow trees, rock piles, under bark, and inside walls or attics of buildings. Source

During winter, the queens remain dormant, conserving energy. As spring nears, they emerge, ready to build new nests and establish fresh colonies. 

This behavior ensures the species’ survival, with only the queens enduring the cold months. 

Lifecycle of The Bald Faced Hornet

The life cycle of a bald-faced hornet begins with the queen laying eggs. 

After fertilizing the eggs using stored sperm, she deposits them in brood cells within the nest

These eggs hatch into larvae, which are then fed by worker hornets.

As the larvae mature, they undergo metamorphosis, transitioning through the pupal stage before emerging as adult hornets. 

The colony consists of the queen, infertile female workers, and, by late summer, males and reproductive females.

Bald Faced Hornet

The typical lifespan of worker bald-faced hornets is a few months, aligning with the seasonal life of the colony. 

By fall, males and new queens mate. Post-mating, males die, and the original colony members, including the old queen and workers, perish with the onset of cold weather. 

Only the newly fertilized queens survive, overwintering to start new colonies the following spring. 

Do Bald Faced Hornets Sting?

Yes, bald-faced hornets can sting. They have smooth stingers, which means they can sting repeatedly. 

Bald-faced hornets are known to be protective of their nests, and they may become aggressive if they perceive a threat to the colony. 

While their stings can be painful and, in some cases, cause allergic reactions, they primarily use stinging as a defense mechanism rather than to capture prey. 

It’s essential to exercise caution and avoid disturbing their nests to minimize the risk of being stung.

How Far Do Bald Faced Hornets Travel from Their Nest?

Bald-faced hornets typically forage for food within a radius of a few hundred yards from their nest. 

They tend to stay relatively close to their colony while searching for insects, arthropods, and nectar. 

However, their foraging distance can vary depending on factors such as the availability of food sources and environmental conditions. 

In general, they do not travel great distances from their nest to find food, and their foraging range is limited compared to some other species of wasps or bees.

Bald Faced Hornets Nest

Their Role in The Ecosystem

Bald-faced hornets play a multifaceted role in the ecosystem. One of their primary contributions is pest control. 

They feed on various insects, including flies and other yellowjackets, effectively reducing the population of these pests.

In addition to their predatory nature, bald-faced hornets are pollinators. As they forage for nectar from flowers, they inadvertently transfer pollen, aiding in the fertilization of plants. 

This pollination activity supports the growth of various flora, enriching the environment.

Their presence, therefore, benefits both the natural world and human habitats. 

While they might be known for their stings, their ecological contributions are invaluable, emphasizing their importance in maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

Management and Control of Bald Faced Hornets

Bald-faced hornets, while beneficial to the ecosystem, can pose risks when their nests are near human activity. 

If a nest is located within 10 feet of an entrance or in high-traffic areas, intervention may be necessary. 

For those without medical concerns, treating the nest is possible. It’s advised to approach the nest at night, using a ‘wasp and hornet’ spray directly into the nest opening. 

During this process, wearing protective clothing, including long sleeves, rubber gloves, and goggles, is crucial. 

However, if there’s a history of allergic reactions to stings, professional pest management should be sought. 

It’s essential to prioritize safety, recognizing when to coexist and when to take action.

Bald Faced Hornet Nest

How to Get Rid of Bald Faced Hornet Nest?

Getting rid of a bald-faced hornet nest can be challenging and should be approached with caution. Here are steps to consider if you need to remove a nest:

  • Assess the Nest: Determine the size and location of the nest. Smaller nests are easier to handle.
  • Safety First: Wear protective clothing, including a beekeeping suit, gloves, and a face shield. Ensure you have an escape route.
  • Choose the Right Time: Approach the nest at night when the hornets are less active and inside the nest.
  • Use Insecticide: Apply a wasp and hornet spray directly into the nest entrance. Do this quickly and thoroughly, holding the nozzle against the opening to prevent hornets from escaping. Some sprays can reach a distance, so be prepared to maintain a safe distance.
  • Observe After Treatment: Keep an eye on the nest for a few days to ensure that hornet activity has ceased. If activity continues, you may need to reapply the insecticide.
  • Nest Removal: Once you are certain the colony is no longer active, you can safely remove the nest. Wear protective gear and carefully detach the nest from its location.
  • Professional Help: If you are unsure about handling the nest or have allergies to hornet stings, it’s best to hire a professional pest control expert to remove the nest safely.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the insecticide label, and exercise extreme caution during nest removal to minimize the risk of stings.

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Conclusion

Bald-faced hornets are native to North America and are widespread across the continent. They are especially common in the southeastern United States. 

Unlike some wasps that nest in the ground, bald-faced hornets are aerial nesters. 

They construct large, gray, papery nests that hang from tree branches, shrubs, building eaves, or other elevated structures. 

These nests can sometimes reach up to three feet in height. During winter, the majority of the colony dies off, except for the fertilized queens. 

These queens seek shelter in protected places like hollow trees, rock piles, or building walls to overwinter and emerge in spring to start new colonies.

Reader Emails

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 from Alaska

 

Subject: Random bug sighting in backyard. Location: Anchorage, alaska USA July 1, 2017 2:03 am Dear big man. This bug was about as big as my thumb. (An inch or so long) he flew onto an old plywood fish smoker. He (I’m going to assume gender) went on to make a weird noise, almost as though he was nibbled the wood. Signature: Dog lady, not bug lady.

Bald Faced Hornet

Dear Dog Lady, This is a Bald Faced Hornet, and we first wanted to establish that they are reported from Alaska.  BugGuide has no reports from Alaska, but they are reported from across Canada, so we can deduce they are probably found in Alaska, but we confirmed that since they are listed on Insect Identification:  Bees, Ants, Wasps and Similar Insects of Alaska.  Your gender assumption is wrong.  Only female Bald Faced Hornets construct nests and care for young.  You are correct that she was nibbling wood.  Bald Faced Hornets chew wood into pulp that they use to construct a paper nest.  Bald Faced Hornets are social wasps that construct a nest that they will defend.  They are not normally aggressive toward humans, but anyone attempting to disturb a nest can probably count on getting stung.

Letter 2 – Bald Faced Hornet in Canada

 

Carpenter Bee? Location:  Toronto, ON July 25, 2010 10:27 am This bee-like insect has been hanging around the deckish part of my building’s fire escape for about a month or two in ones and twos. I’m on the third floor of a three floor building, so the area is hot and sunny when they’re here. I’m in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, near the Lake Ontario shore. and it’s mid July now. They seem very interested in eating the wood on the verticals. I haven’t seen them on the horizontal decking wood, and they don’t leave piles of sawdust. When it’s quiet, I can hear them munching (kind of creepy). The highlights are white, not yellow, that’s not a colour issue with the photo. Exxtremitie

Bald Faced Hornet

Dear Exxtremitie, The Bald Faced Hornet in your photo is gathering wood pulp to add to the large paper nest that must be nearby in a tree or other suitable location.

Reader Emails

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 from Alaska

 

Subject: Random bug sighting in backyard. Location: Anchorage, alaska USA July 1, 2017 2:03 am Dear big man. This bug was about as big as my thumb. (An inch or so long) he flew onto an old plywood fish smoker. He (I’m going to assume gender) went on to make a weird noise, almost as though he was nibbled the wood. Signature: Dog lady, not bug lady.

Bald Faced Hornet

Dear Dog Lady, This is a Bald Faced Hornet, and we first wanted to establish that they are reported from Alaska.  BugGuide has no reports from Alaska, but they are reported from across Canada, so we can deduce they are probably found in Alaska, but we confirmed that since they are listed on Insect Identification:  Bees, Ants, Wasps and Similar Insects of Alaska.  Your gender assumption is wrong.  Only female Bald Faced Hornets construct nests and care for young.  You are correct that she was nibbling wood.  Bald Faced Hornets chew wood into pulp that they use to construct a paper nest.  Bald Faced Hornets are social wasps that construct a nest that they will defend.  They are not normally aggressive toward humans, but anyone attempting to disturb a nest can probably count on getting stung.

Letter 2 – Bald Faced Hornet in Canada

 

Carpenter Bee? Location:  Toronto, ON July 25, 2010 10:27 am This bee-like insect has been hanging around the deckish part of my building’s fire escape for about a month or two in ones and twos. I’m on the third floor of a three floor building, so the area is hot and sunny when they’re here. I’m in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, near the Lake Ontario shore. and it’s mid July now. They seem very interested in eating the wood on the verticals. I haven’t seen them on the horizontal decking wood, and they don’t leave piles of sawdust. When it’s quiet, I can hear them munching (kind of creepy). The highlights are white, not yellow, that’s not a colour issue with the photo. Exxtremitie

Bald Faced Hornet

Dear Exxtremitie, The Bald Faced Hornet in your photo is gathering wood pulp to add to the large paper nest that must be nearby in a tree or other suitable location.

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Bald Faced Hornet

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