Baldfaced Hornet – Dolichovespula maculata

Bald Faced Hornet – Dolichovespula maculata
Family Vespidae
— hornets, paper wasps, potter wasps, yellowjackets.
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Also commonly called bald faced wasp, black wasp, white faced hornet.
Baldfaced Hornet queen attacks.  I witnessed a macabre spectacle. I was out along the shore of a small pond near my house, and happened to see an enormous black and white hornet queen – much larger than a worker.   I followed her about as she scouted amongst the low plants and grasses – and watched in amazement as she attacked and ate a scape moth in a matter of 2 minutes or so.
Bald Faced Hornet
Although commonly called a hornet, Dolichovespula maculata is technically a wasp in the genus Vespula – many of which are commonly called yellowjackets or blackjackets.

BFHs build exposed, grey nests in trees or shrubs, or under roof overhangs, in attics, crawlspaces, or under decks or porches. The nests are constructed of a paper-like material formed from chewed wood, and can get larger than a basketball.

Life cycle: In spring , the queens emerge from diapause and build small nests consisting of a few paper cells. 1 egg is laid in each cell. When the eggs hatch, the female hornets hunt other insects to feed to the larvae.  When larvae are fully grown, they spin silk cocoons inside their cells and pupate into adult wasps. The wasps that emerge from the cells are all sterile female workers, which then take over nest building and foraging duties.

Near the end of the summer, female larvae are fed greater amounts of food, which allows them to develop into queens, with complete reproductive systems. At the same time, the queen lays unfertilized eggs, which develop into male wasps. The males mate with the fertile females, and the colony breaks up with the onset of autumn. The fertilized females overwinter and the males die.

bald faced hornet nest

This bald faced hornet nest is about 10 inches in diameter. It is made from the same material as paper wasp nests – chewed up plant material and saliva. What amazing builders!

Order Hymenoptera: Bees, Wasps, & Ants
belong to this large order, which also includes sawflies. Most species are solitary, but some, such as the domestic honeybee, exhibit a complex social structure in which exist sterile female workers and fertile male and female royalty.
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