June 1, 2013

Allen Afield: Distance, respect the best approach with hornets


(Continued from page 1)

Which brings up a point about hornets, particularly ground nesters. Have you ever stood outdoors the days after a hurricane or line storm and had, say, a single yellow jacket sting you for no reason? Often, when rain has flooded the nest, homeless, ireful hornets are flying around in disarray.

Bald-faced hornets measure up to 3/4-inches long (20mm), but crawling on a stump or buzzing in someone's face, they look much larger, mostly because the head, neck and pedicel are so wide for the insect's length.

The black-and-white pattern on this hornet really sticks out, particularly the white, though each one has more black than white.

The stinger's size intimates children, but in my humble opinion, bald-faces are generally less aggressive than, say, yellow jackets unless someone inadvertently bothers a nest.

Adult bald-faced hornets drink nectar and fruit juices, and they forage on insects, the latter chewed by adults to feed larvae, common enough with other hornets.

This carnivorous nature is easy to observe on riverbanks, too. For some weird reason, bait anglers occasionally catch eels and throw them onto shore to rot, a wasteful practice. Many times I've seen yellow jackets foraging on the carcasses, getting bits of masticated meat for the young.

If bald-faced hornets interest readers, it's a fun topic to research. Many intriguing, natural-history tidbits couldn't fit into this column.

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at:



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