Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Our Friend The Bald Faced Hornet

Hornet Nest in Cottonwood Garden
The Bald Faced Hornet is native to North America and well known for it's large hanging paper nests.  It is not a true hornet but belongs to a genus of wasps called the Yellowjackets.  However, sadly because it lacks the yellow coloring it is called a hornet in the american sense of a wasp that builds paper nests.  It will aggressively defend it's nest (400 to 700 hornets in a nest) and unlike the honey bee can sting repeatedly (non barbed stinger) which I found out when cleaning our extracting equipment on Monday.  They enjoy nectar and do pollinate but more importantly they benefit the garden by preying on insects that damage plants.  All but the new queens will die off in the cold weather.  At Cottonwood Garden we are fortunate to have one Hornet nest in the garden and one in a tree just north of the expansion.  I watched, amazed today as a few Bald Faced Hornets attempted to enter our Honey Bee hive.  Immediately 8-10 of our toughest ladies (guard bees) attacked the hornets with a vengeance that explained why our bees have been much more aggressive towards us lately.  At the end of the summer the old wasp queen stops laying eggs so all the wasps leave the nest to forage.  Wasps can decimate a weak bee hive (kill all of the bees).  We will monitor the situation, possibly use the entrance reducer and put up bee safe wasp traps (sugar water and vinegar - bees are repelled by vinegar).
Serge at our last hive inspection 

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