Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Nature Notes: Baldfaced Hornet - Dolichovespula maculata


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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9 comments:

Nature Notes said...

I have never seen one of those insects or nests here...Fabulous macro Marvin...amamzing. I did go and read the story..LOL... Or maybe it wasn't so funny, but I am glad that were no stings. I was glad to see that the useful behavior of the hornet was pointed out as I think we sometimes just kill everything no matter what.. it isn't always necessary.. Great post for Nature Notes...Michelle

Lisa at Greenbow said...

We have these hornets around here. They are handsome creatures. Your photo is great.

Carver said...

Interesting post. I'll admit to being very scared of hornets.

Lana Gramlich said...

Ahhhhhhh. So THAT'S what that is. I got a photo of one a while back & have been searching fruitlessly for an ID. Leave it to you to provide the answer! Thanks!

Arija said...

A very interesting post indeed as we do not have these beautiful insects in Australia. It is always good to be able to expand one's knowledge.

Dave Ingram said...

Wow! Beautiful image and an interesting read Marvin. I hope the hornet was focused on what it was doing!

Marvin said...

Some wasp species are more aggressive than others, but all react only when they perceive a threat to themselves or, more often, their nest. My wife is allergic to stings, so I do have to remove a few nests that are too close area we frequently occupy -- like right above the door. Otherwise, we leave the wasps alone and they leave us alone.

This particular hornet posed no danger at all since it is a male and, like all male bees, wasps, hornets, etc. that I know about, has no stinger. (I didn't know that when I took the photo, though.)

There are some hornet mimics, Lana, including a very convincing syrphid fly. Those short, stubby antennae always give the flies away.

Thanks for your comments everyone.

Crafty Green Poet said...

interesting post, I've never seen a hornet...

WoodSong said...

not many insects give me the willies but these bad boys do! I was hit by a swarm of them many years ago, and I've never had such a painful bite- I'm allergic to them, so I give them a very wide berth now :) Great macro Marvin.