Bald Faced Hornets

Who is first against the wall when the revolution comes?  For us, it’s these guys.  Bald Faced Hornets.  I’d rather face a bear, or a rabid raccoon.  You have a better chance of successfully fending off an attack from either of those than these nasty hornets.  Their sting burns like the fire from 1000 suns.

Well, maybe not quite.  But they’re awfully aggressive, and their sting is one of the most painful things I can imagine.  It is, in fact, the 7th most painful insect sting on the planet according to the particularly masochistic entomologist who devised the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.  It’s described as “Rich, hearty, slightly crunchy.  Similar to getting your hand mashed in a revolving door.”  I’m not sure it’s something I’d describe so poetically, but 7th most painful seems about the right scale.

Image Souce: Wikimedia CommonsSince we hit the nest last year, we have been particularly careful when it comes to Bald Faced Hornet nests.  Thus far this summer while clearing we’ve run have run into three separate nests.  All of which were about the size of tennis balls, and all were guarded by a single female who did not leave the nest to sting us.

It is now, unfortunately, early July.  The workers will begin emerging, and we may not be so lucky with future encounters this year.

Last year, while clearing a pasture of chest high weeds with a mower to plant a new garden, we found a nest roughly the size of a soccer ball.  Might I reiterate that: We found a hornets nest with the lawn mower.

Bald Faced Hornets Nest Found June 30th. Roughly the size of a tennis ball. Still only one female in residence.
Bald Faced Hornets Nest Found June 30th. Roughly the size of a tennis ball. Still only one female in residence.

It was late in the season, when hornet nests are at full strength.  Fertile female hornets breed in the fall, and then overwinter alone to lay eggs early

inthe spring.  In our climate they’re flying solo until early July when their first worker brood begins to emerge.  Their colony is at peak strength in the late summer, just before the new females breed and go off to overwinter.  The rest of the colony dies off in late September.

The Bald Faced Hornet range unfortunately covers most of the heavily populated areas of the US and just about all of Canada.  If you happen to find a nest, be sure to deal with it early in the season.

In warmer areas workers can emerge as early as April/May and begin aggressively defending the nest.

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