Bald-faced Hornet Nest – Quick Update

Near the end of July, we discovered a Bald-Faced Hornet Nest in the crabapple tree in our front yard.

We eventually decided to hang some strips of warning flagging on the tree branches and leave it be until cold temperatures killed off the workers and the new queen vacated the nest to over-winter somewhere else. For some reason, we expected the new queen would vacate around mid-October and that it would be safe to bring in an arborist to prune and shape the tree in November.

But one evening this week, Mr. GeoK looked out his home office window and spotted a magpie attacking the nest. Mrs. GeoK went outside to investigate and discovered several small pieces of the nest on the ground. The top of the nest was pocked with beak holes. So we figured maybe the hornets were already gone.

Bald-faced hornet nest

There’s extensive, visible damage to the top of the nest.

After carefully watching the entrance / exit hole for about 10 minutes, Mrs. GeoK concluded the nest was empty. With the help of a couple of hockey sticks, she pried it out of the branches. This was a little tricky – bald-faced hornets incorporate tree branches into their nest structure to minimize wind damage and make it more difficult to destroy.

In the end, it came down in sections…

Three sections from the nest

There was a large open section at the bottom of the nest and then these three layers of chambers for eggs to hatch (called combs). There were a few remnants of the silk caps spun by the larvae, but otherwise the combs were clean and empty.

Close-up of empty hornets' comb

Here’s a closer look at the largest comb.

We saved the combs and a large section of the nest, just in case K’s science class wants to take a look.

Our decision to leave the nest alone turned out well – this time. But we’re well aware that Bald-faced Hornets can be extremely aggressive, so we’ll be keeping a close eye out next year, just in case the hibernating queen decides to start another nest in our yard. We’d prefer not to have them in our crabapple tree again next year!

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One thought on “Bald-faced Hornet Nest – Quick Update

  1. Thanks for bring this in. I have already had several students investigate and comment. They are observing things like shape and symmetry, as well as, the place and role of these animals in the ecosystem. They were quite intrigued by the behaviour of the magpie too.

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