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Bald-faced Hornets

Introduction
The bald faced hornet is an insect found in North America. The scientific name is Dolichovespula Maculata and another common name is white-faced hornet. Contrary to what the name suggests bald-faced hornets are not true hornets; they belong to the genus wasp, and are a type of yellow jacket. Wasps that use paper to build their nests are often called hornets. Bald-faced hornets are distantly related to the European and giant Asian hornet.

Bald-faced hornets are social insects, this means they live in colonies. A colony is made of three kinds of bald-faced hornets. First there are workers: sterile females who build and tend to the nest as well as defending it with their stingers. Next there is the queen: a fertile female who lays eggs; there is one per colony. Finally there are drones: fertile males who mate with future queens and do not have stingers. Bald-faced hornets are very protective of their nests and will aggressively attack intruders within three feet of their nest. These hornets are known to attack the face, painfully stinging a victim repeatedly. The diet of a bald-faced hornet includes flies, caterpillars, bees and other insects as larvae. When they are adults, bald-faced hornets feed on nectar and fruit juices.

Physical Characteristics
Bald-faced hornets are flying insects, having six legs, a pair of wings and a body that is divided primarily into a head thorax and abdomen. A feature in their bodyís shape is the thin waist, or area between the thorax and abdomen. In length they measure sixteen to twenty millimeters. A bald-faced hornetsí colouring is all black with the exception of the head, face and end of the abdomen. In these areas, bald-faced hornets have white or cream coloured markings; this is why they can also be called white-faced hornets.

Habitat
Bald-faced hornets can be found across North America, including southern Canada, the Rocky Mountains and across the United States. They live in wooded areas where they make nests on tree branches and shrubs. In human populated areas bald-faced hornets can build their nests on utility poles, siding, attics, over hanging roofs, under decks and porches as well as in trees. Nests that are made high in trees, away from busy areas, are not usually noticeable until after the tree has shed its leaves making it less of a threat because of the distance it is from people. To construct a nest, bald-faced hornets chew wood which mixes with a starch in their saliva to form a type of paper; this is what their nests are made of. A bald-faced hornetís nest has one entrance and exit hole at the bottom. Inside there are three or four rows of combs where offspring are raised and adults live. This is all surrounded by an outer layer of paper. Two ways that we can describe a bald-faced hornetís nest are football or upside-down pear shaped. A nest can grow to be larger than a basketball in diameter. Every year in the spring bald-faced hornets build new nests, never re-using an old one. However, birds may get some use out of an old nest by pecking through it looking for old larvae to eat.

Life Cycle
Over its life cycle a bald-faced hornet will pass through four stages. The first is egg, then comes larva, next is pupa and the final stage is adult. Every year new colonies start from scratch as only the fertilised queens survive the winter. Queens hibernate over the winter in sheltered places such as barns, attics or under tree bark. When spring comes in April or May the queen will find a suitable spot to build her nest. A queen will start building the nest herself until she has raised some workers who then takeover building the nest and caring for offspring, leaving the queen to produce eggs. This is when the colonyís growth begins to speed up, generally it is mid-summer. Once a colony begins this rapid growth the population can reach 400 to 700, or even higher. At the end of the summer, in August or September the queen will begin to lay drone eggs as well as future queens. Once mature, they mate with each other. Before winter the future queens will seek shelter and the rest of the colony will die off.

Pest Control Services
A technician will come out to your property and do an inspection. Extermination requires a combination of sprays and dust. Bald Faced Hornets are very common in southern Ontario and by the end of summer nests are usually quite large. Please feel free to call or send us an email for your free quote or for more information.

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