Bald-Faced Hornet: Dolichovespula Maculata

Image of bald faced hornet foraging for nectar

Description Of The Bald-Faced Hornet

The Bald-faced Hornet is an insect from North America that constructs a large paper nest to house a social colony. It is not a real hornet, commonly called the bald-faced hornet (or white-faced hornet). Bald-faced hornets are related to yellow jackets more closely than they are to hornets.

These round-bodied social wasps are black with white markings on the abdomen and front of their head. The face, with dark eyes, is primarily white. When at rest, the front wings of the hornets and other Vespidae are folded lengthwise. The large antennae are noticeable, and these wasps are sometimes mistaken for bees due to their size, shape, and coloration.

Bald-faced hornets are known for their large paper nest in the shape of a ball, which they build in the spring to raise their young. Sometimes these nests can reach 3 feet tall. 1Go To Source -“Bald-faced Hornet”

Learn More:  Types Of Stinging Insects 

Bald-Faced Hornet Behavior

Picture of bald faced hornet on tree branch

One queen and many female workers are made up of baldfaced hornet nests. Mated queens emerge from protected sites, such as stumps, logs, and under loose bark during early spring (April June).

A queen begins to build a paper nest, lays eggs, and collects prey to feed her growing young once she finds a suitable location. They assume the duties of building and maintaining the nest and foraging for food, water, and care for the colony after the first generation of wasps complete development and emerge as winged adults. Colonies often have an average of about 400 workers but can vary between 100-700 in size.

New queens and males are produced from early July to September. The males and queens will leave the nest, mate, and find an appropriate protected site for overwintering for the new queens. After the males and future queens exit the nest, the original queen and workers die. Abandoned nests are not reused in most cases and often decompose over the winter. Only more tropical areas of North America have seen nests that have been reused.

In trees and shrubs, baldfaced hornet nests often hang where they go unnoticed until the leaves have fallen in the fall. It is also possible to build nests on buildings, windows, attics, or other artificial structures. They are often shaped like pears or eggs and can be as big as 14 inches in diameter and more than 23 inches in length. Multiple layers of hexagonal combs are constructed of nests, similar in shape to those of honeybee nests and covered in a mottled gray paper envelope. Vegetable fibers, such as rotten or weathered wood, dead plants, or even human-made materials such as cardboard and newspaper, are the raw materials for “paper.” To create a pulp that is then formed into place, the fibers are chewed and mixed with saliva. 2Go To Source -“BALDFACED HORNETS”

Bald-Faced Hornet Stings

Bald-faced hornets have modified ovipositors functioning as “stingers” on their abdomen. These stingers are incredibly smooth and can be injected into a target and withdrawn without any damage to the wasp’s stinger or abdomen. The result of this is that a bald-faced hornet can sting a target organism repeatedly and without harming itself and potentially injecting its victim with large amounts of venom.

The hornet’s venom is a complex mix of proteins capable of stimulating a target organism’s pain nerve receptors. These proteins in the wasp’s target can also trigger inflammatory and even allergic reactions. Bald-faced hornets can also eject this venom from their ovipositors and can spray this toxic mixture into any nest predator that disturbs the colony’s faces (particularly the eyes). 3Go To Source -“Common Name: Bald-Faced Hornet Scientific Name: Dolichovespula maculata”

Social Hierarchy Of Bald-Faced Hornet

Bald-faced Hornets live in large colonies with different tiers in their social structure. To help support the colony, the queen bee, drones, and worker bees all have specific duties.

Hundreds of eggs are laid by the queen. The main function of the male drones is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen. Workers perform all the various tasks required to operate the nest and maintain it.

Bald-Faced Hornet Reproduction Cycle

Photograph of bald faced hornet

A eusocial species is the bald-faced hornets. The queen is fertile, and the female workers are sterile to a degree. In colonies, bald-faced hornets are found, like many other eusocial species, and have a reproductive division of labor. The workers tend to the young, and the offspring help the parents. During the late summer to autumn, new queens and males are reproduced. After being fully grown, they leave the nest and mate.

The majority of queens mate only once in the Dolichovespula genus. After mating, the males die. The queens look for a place to wait out the winter after storing the sperm. They build a nest in the spring and lay their first brood of eggs. Female bees are produced by eggs fertilized by the queen, while unfertilized eggs produce male bees. Female workers can produce male offspring. Conflicts over male production among queens and workers are common. Nests with no queen were reported, which may be due to the workers’ killing of the queen. 4Go To Source -“Dolichovespula maculata”

Habitat Of The Bald-Faced Hornet

In trees and shrubs, bald-faced hornets create their nests and build them from wood pulp (paper). These wasps chew wood, mix it with the starches in their saliva, and make a nest using this substance. Eventually, nests have several horizontal comb layers enclosed by an external envelope, just as yellowjacket nests do.

A single overwintered queen in spring starts every nest. Late-summer nests can contain several hundred workers as well as males and new queens. Bald-faced hornet nests are often high off the ground. 5Go To Source -“BALD-FACED HORNET Dolichovespula maculata”

Bald-Faced Hornet Range & Distribution

The baldfaced hornet is found in 48 of the 50 United States, throughout Canada and Alaska, and is the most common of the Dolichovespula species in Pennsylvania.

Diet Of Bald-Faced Hornets

Adult bald-faced hornets, like other wasps, dine on nectar, pollen, sap, and other plant juices, insects, and sometimes carrots. They also hunt for insects to chew and feed their larvae that are developing. They eat many yellowjacket caterpillars and flies and are considered beneficial insects to have around for this. Adults consume less meat and more carbohydrates as the nest winds down in early fall. 6Go To Source -“Bald-faced Hornet (Family Vespidae)”

Bald-Faced Hornet Predators

  • Frogs
  • Birds
  • Mantises
  • Spiders
  • Caterpillars



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  3. Kaczor, Jessica. “Bald-Faced Hornet.” Penn State University, The Pennsylvania State University, 31 Aug. 2014,
  4. Hauze, D. 2020. “Dolichovespula maculata” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 09, 2021 at
  5. “Bald-Faced Hornet.” MDC Discover Nature, State Of Missouri, Accessed 9 Feb. 2021.
  6. “Bald-Faced Hornet (Family Vespidae).” Field Station, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 30 Apr. 2017,