Baldfaced Truth

A baldfaced hornet emerges from a hole in a tree where we beached our canoes on Harness Lake.

A baldfaced hornet emerges from a hole in a tree where we beached our canoes on Harness Lake.

I have baldfaced hornets to thank for numerous WTF moments this summer.

While checking the pasture for monarch caterpillars, I came across a shredded nest with several baldfaced hornets crawling around it. This struck me as odd because, a few weeks earlier, I’d seen them nesting inside a tree in Algonquin Provincial Park in Canada.

So I Googled it.

I was relieved to learn that I hadn’t been hallucinating; baldfaced hornets do nest in trees and in paper nests — sometimes built on low-lying shrubs. The nests are sometimes predated by raccoons, foxes and skunks, which might have explained the shredded one in the pasture.

Baldfaced hornets in their paper nest.

Baldfaced hornets in their paper nest.

I also learned that, all in all, baldfaced hornets are beneficial. They’re pollinators and serve as food for birds, frogs and other insects. The thing I like most about them is that they kill and devour yellow jackets.  Having been stung by yellow jackets twice in the past three weeks, I’ve become a big fan of baldfaced hornets.

Another cool fact — sometimes they chew up and feed their young so many yellow jackets that their nests take on a yellow tint.

The downside of baldfaced hornets is that they can be just as nasty as yellow jackets if provoked. However, if the nest are located in places where they’re not in the way, that shouldn’t be a problem.

So I was delighted to see they had built a beautiful nest in a pine tree in the front yard, far away from human traffic. For the job they do eradicating yellow jackets, I’m tempted to climb up there and leave little mints under their pillows.

Pure and simple, this nest is a thing of beauty!

Pure and simple — this baldfaced hornet nest is a thing of beauty!

 

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2 thoughts on “Baldfaced Truth

  1. Their paper nests are beautiful indeed – real works of art! Did you know that the different colored “lines” that appear in the nest material result from the hornets chewing dry wood from different sources (a bark-less log, an old fence post, a barn door, etc.) . . . when they spit out the moistened wood fibers to add a line of paper to the nest, that section will be of a hue reflecting its wood source. Sometimes you even see tinges of red if they were visiting faded barn siding. One of nature’s many artists!

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