Baldfaced Hornet - Dolichovespula maculata
(Photo: Marvin Smith on 10/25/09)
IDENTIFICATION: Black with white markings on the head, thorax, and the last few segments of the abdomen ... wings smoky ... like other Vespidae, wings are folded lengthwise when at rest ... males and worker females are around 5/8" long ... queens are larger.
LIFE CYCLE: A fertilized female (queen) overwinters, then begins a new nest in the spring. She lays eggs that develop into non-fertile female workers. Once these workers become adults, the queen only lays eggs which the workers tend and feed. Several generations of workers are produced. Late in the summer or in early fall, the queen lays eggs that develop into males and fertile females. As winter approaches, all the hornets except for mated females die. The mated females overwinter in protected habitats such as cracks and crevices. They become the next season's queens and begin the process again. In the deep south it is possible for the hornets to remain active all year.
NESTS: Hornets construct large, inverted pear-shaped paper nests that are usually attached to tree limbs. Small branches may be included in the nests to give extra support. The grayish brown nest has two to four horizontally arranged combs and an entrance hole at the bottom. Workers chew weathered wood and old boards to create the "paper" for the nest. This is the reason for hornets' large, powerful jaws.
(For photos of a hornets' nest -- and a humorous tale about its procurement -- check out MObugs.)
FOOD: Adults are commonly found on flowers where they drink nectar. They will also feed on fallen, over-ripe fruit. Workers feed developing larvae a sugary solution they produce and also pre-chewed insect bits. Larvae also feed adults a sweetish secretion from their mouths.
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