Friday, October 26, 2012

Dropping like flies

We have wasps -- specifically bald-faced hornets -- dropping like flies.

If you remember, we have a large nest of bald-faced hornets on our front porch. For the entire time they've been building this condo, they've minded their business and haven't stung anyone, canine or human. Bald-faced hornets are excellent predators who control pesky fly populations (I've watched them in action, it's pretty impressive), so we left the nest alone.

This is what the nest looked like in early September.

This is what the nest looks like today. They've made this weird hook-shape near the bottom. I'm estimating the diameter is about eleven inches at its widest, and about sixteen inches from top to bottom.

But now that cold weather is here, the hornets have not been happy campers. In fact, they're dropping like flies, straight out of the nest and onto the porch and wood pile beneath.

This lady isn't dead, but she's dying.

While we're careful to make sure any firewood we bring into the house doesn't have wasps on it, once in awhile one does come into the house on a piece of wood. In here, the warmth revives them and they are capable of stinging. Not that they're acting aggressive, but it's always a possibility someone can step on one. Most of the time we just scoop them up and put them back outside.

In a couple of months when we're positive the wasps are dead, we'll take down the nest and dissect it to see what's inside (probably a bunch of dead wasps, right?). We'll do this outdoors just to be safe.

Personally I don't mind having these wasps around the house. They're beneficent insects who do an important job controlling pests. Nonetheless if they start building a new nest on the porch next spring, we'll probably spray.


  1. I had a HORRIBLE time with bald faced hornets last year, they were constantly bombarding me in the milk parlor. I killed, on average, two every time I milked. And I got stung at least a half dozen times. Finally found the nest after the leaves fell off the trees. It was about 50 yards away from the barn. Yes, I know they were after the flies in the barn, but they obviously enjoyed stinging me in the process. Since DD came around, I have NO tolerance for them and if we see a nest, it's destroyed.

  2. Oh, learned something new...I didn't realize they go after flys. I wonder if the hook is a protection for the weather?

  3. I'm fascinated by this.

    We have them here, but they're generally very aggressive and it would be extremely dangerous having a nest this near the house....especially on the porch.


  4. I was wondering how they came back in the spring after you dissected the nest. Found this at the master beekeeper web site that the queen burrows in the ground in the fall and emerges in the spring. No matter when spring happens in northern Idaho. :)


  5. We had a bumper crop of yellow jackets and baldfaced hornets this year, and I guess due to the drought they were more aggressive than usual. Hubby had to take out a nest that was under our front deck, as every time we walked out the front door, the vibration was causing them to come out on the defense.

    On the good side, my brother observed them attacking and killing the box elder bugs that covered the front of the house.


  6. As Anonymous was saying, the queen does drop out of the nest and burrow into the ground and kind of lives there for the winter. Then, back out in the spring time. We usually have a bunch around here too. So far, we haven't had a stinging problem with them. And as long as it stays that way, I don't mind them around either. I would rather them as to have yellow jackets. Those things are MEAN! lol

  7. We've had all manor of stinging insects this year. Usually its just yellow jackets, who're manageable as long as you catch the nest early, but we had Baldies (and they were MUCH more aggressive acting than yours), and European hornets (which look like GIANT F*CKING YELLOW JACKETS) this year too.

    If you do take down that nest be very carefull. They SHOULD be dead by midwinter sure...but those were some nasty critters when we had to deal with them! We hired out having the nest taken down, and they were flying through the spray to hit the guy 20+ feet away!

  8. Bag the nest in a heavy trash bag and bring it into the warm. After a day warming give it a good shot of starting fluid and seal the bag back up. This is what we do when we have a hive of african bees.

  9. I understand that when you take a nest down, if you smear the anchorage point with petroleum jelly, it prevents them from buildng a nest in the same spot.

    1. Cool! I didn't know that. We'll definitely give it a try.

      - Patrice

  10. Reminds of the story of my then 10 year old nephew. He and his friends were riding bikes in mid December and found a hornets nest hanging from a tree. They removed the dead branch with the nest and he rode home with it under his arm. No problems until they put the nest in the garage and in the spring when it warmed up, the hornets "woke" up. No one was hurt, but they had a heck of a time getting the hornets out of the garage.
    K'ville, NC

  11. One Christmas we brought a cut tree into the living room and the warmth in the house revived a paper wasp nest that was built inside it. I was killing groggy wasps crawling out all over the place. Makes me paranoid now whenever we get a live christmas tree!

  12. They also sell cheapy fake "wasp nests" that you hang in the area of the old removed nest. Supposedly they take it for a competitors nest and go elsewhere.