While walking Lucy one recent morning, I came across a huge wasps’ nest that apparently fell out of a tree and split open. The wasps were busy inside, trying to repair the damage and salvage their nest. They were not at all concerned with me, so much so that I was able sit down on the road to take a closer look.
I’d never seen Bald-Faced Hornets before. Interestingly they are actually wasps, a type of yellowjacket, with patterns of white bands and lines on their abdomens and tips. The inside of the nest was amazing! The cells were perfect hexagons. Outside, the whorls reminded me of seashells.
You know what I had to do, hon? Research! The following are the:
Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets:
- “Bald-faced hornets are considered a beneficial species because they prey on flies and other yellow jackets (notoriously aggressive).” They also eat other insects and, in late summer, will collect nectar.
- In these large social colonies numbering 200-400, all have specific tasks. The queen lays hundreds of eggs and raises sterile daughter offspring. The females enlarge and maintain the nest, forage for food, and raise the offspring. “The male drones function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen.”
- The queen lays all of the eggs in the colony and fertilizes them using stored sperm from the spermatheca. What is a spermatheca? It’s a structure inside the queen which allows her to control the fertilization of eggs. She can lay eggs that are either unfertilized or fertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into males or drones. Fertilized eggs develop into females, which may be either workers or virgin queens.
- Non-fertilized eggs have only half as many genes as the queen or female workers. The resulting male drones have no sting.
- Males have an additional white band on the first abdominal segment and on their tip.
- Queens, which measure 18-20mm as compared to workers which measure 12-15mm, are the only members of the colony to survive the winter.
- Adults will chew flies into a pulp and feed them to their larvae.
- Their large, aerial, gray nests are made from paper like material which is created when chewed wood fibers are mixed with saliva.
- Inside the nest, there are 3-4 tiers of combs that resemble honeycombs.
- “Nests are built every year. The abandoned nests are often destroyed by birds looking for food.”