Bald-faced Hornet Nest – Leave it be? Or call pest control?

Monday afternoon, when the sun moved around to the back of the house, I opened the blinds in K’s bedroom and spotted something odd in our flowering crabapple tree. I was expecting to see a decoy wasp nest hanging in its usual spot…

…and sure enough, the Waspinator was right where we hung it back in may. But higher up in the tree, about 2 meters over, was another nest!

I was definitely surprised, as everything we read about the Waspinator before we bought it a couple of years ago said it was pretty good at deterring wasps from building a nest within 5 or 6 meters. I guess our new “neighbours” didn’t read those reviews!

I waited until evening to investigate more fully, as I remembered reading some time ago that wasps and hornets are less active in the evening and overnight than they are in heat of the day.

Bald-faced hornet nest in our flowering crabapple tree
Sitting more than 2 m (about 8 feet) off the ground, this bald-faced hornet nest was about 20 cm (8 inches) across before we spotted it hanging in the branches of our crabapple tree.

I set up the tripod about 3 or 4 meters away from the tree, mounted my camera and set to work taking a few shots. The hive was still pretty active, with a hornets leaving and returning every few minutes. About half an hour later, after downloading the pictures and doing a little research, I learned we have a nest of Bald-faced hornets in our front yard.

Entrance to the nest
Apparently there are always a couple of workers on “guard duty”. I couldn’t help but wonder if the hornets crawling around the outside of the nest were building on to make it larger.

A little more research revealed the following reasons to leave the nest where it is:

  • By late fall, the hornets will die off or move out to hibernate over the winter and will not come back to use this nest again next year.
  • Among other things, the hornets eat insects such as aphids, which are pests in the garden.
  • The nest isn’t close to a door, so we won’t be regularly disturbing the nest’s inhabitants.
  • Bald-faced hornets are minor pollinators, especially later in the summer.

And there’s also a list of reasons to call a pest control company to remove the next:

  • Bald-faced hornets get aggressive if they think their nest is threatened. And since their stingers don’t have barbs, each of them can sting repeatedly.
  • Because they interweave tree branches into their nest, it’s strong and durable – not something you can dislodge with a stick. So to wipe out an active nest, it’s important to call in a professional.
  • Among other things, they eat butterflies and moths, which we’re trying to attract to our yard.
  • We planned to have an arborist come and prune the tree this summer, so if we leave the nest in place we’ll have to put that off until late fall.

For now, we’re undecided, but leaning to leaving the nest until it naturally dies off in the fall. But we’ll keep an eye on things and re-assess if the colony seems to be growing in size or their behaviour turns aggressive. If you have first-hand experience with Bald-faced hornets, please share your advice via a comment.

9 thoughts on “Bald-faced Hornet Nest – Leave it be? Or call pest control?

  1. bob

    Have the same in my driveway – hanging from a cedar tree about 10 feet up. While trimming the yard with a motorized trimmer I was stung multiple times (i suspect by the same critter) in the chest and the pain was intense. If you’ve got kids or if the nest is anywhere near where you’ll be using loud gear… be mindful.

    1. Leaving them be (ha ha) worked out for us, as they abandoned the nest by mid-September. We’ve seen no signs of the over-wintering queen settling into our yard this summer. Instead, there’s a nest of white-tailed bumblebees under our driveway. Much less scary! Good luck making the best decision for your circumstances.

  2. In June, bald-faced hornets took up in a shrub on our front lawn and captured our attention when they attacked two boys. People would go past it throughout the day, so I removed it. I wrestled with the situation a little myself, but in the end decided to protect my house the way they were protecting theirs. Pics on my blog if interested in seeing the inside of the nest.

    1. Your amazing photos really show great detail inside the nest. And given what happened and where the next was situated, your decision to do away with the nest is understandable. Our nights are already getting down to just a few degrees above zero and the activity level around the nest in our crabapple tree has dropped quite significantly, so we’re still inclined to let the inhabitants die a natural death. But we’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on the entire yard next spring and intervening early if we spot the over-wintering queen’s new home!

  3. No advice here either, just wanted to add that we used one of those fake wasp nests – it didn’t work! We still have a huge wasp nest in our loft, although we think it’s dormant this year. I find the nests facinating, the patterns and the way they’re built. I hope they go about their business peacefully.

    1. I weeded the front flower beds this morning and they pretty much ignored me. The rest of the family keeps saying the nest is getting bigger every day, but so far so good. If we leave it be until they all move out, I look forward to getting some close-ups of the outside and maybe even the inside.

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