This critter of the species, Dolichovespula maculata, is important to those of us who work in our landscapes because they have a habit of making their papery nests in our trees and shrubs. The bald faced hornet which is also known as white faced hornet, white tailed hornet, blackjacket or the bull wasp is a wasp or yellow jacket (not a true hornet) that is native to North America.

They produce the classic football shaped paper nest that "suddenly" shows up when the leaves drop from the trees in the fall. Actually, they have been there all season long getting larger and larger but we did not notice them. They went about their business while you went about yours without disturbing their nest.

Each spring, the "queens" who have survived the winters, select a site and build a new nest. They do not reuse nests from the previous season. Once they get started, they begin to produce new workers and, by the end of the summer, there may be as many as 300 or more individuals in the nest. Their only goal in life is to produce a handful of fertilized queens who will live to start new nests the next year. After heavy frosts kill off their prey, all the other hornets in the nest will die and the queens leave to find a safe place to over winter. The nest then disintegrates over the winter...unless it is used for a school science project.

Bald faced hornets are generally beneficial critters. They are predators that eat a lot of other insects including some that are pests in our gardens.

They are formidable looking creatures but they tend to mind their own business and only get aggressive if their nest is being disturbed. Since they generally construct their homes high up in the trees, such nests should just be ignored. They will be gone when the winter comes.

However, if nests are found very close to where people congregate or on the side of houses or other dwellings, they should be removed to eliminate the possibility of people coming into contact with the nests.

Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service office for techniques to deal with bald faced hornet nests that are a problem. If you or someone nearby have allergies to bee stings, you should have a professional pest control company do the job.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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