Now that most trees have lost their leaves, we find out what was hiding in their branches all summer long. Bird and squirrel nests are suddenly visible, and hornet nests turn out to be much more common than we ever imagined. I almost never see a Bald-faced Hornet in summer, but now I’m finding their nests in many trees in Columbus Park and throughout our Oak Park neighborhood. They look like big gray basketballs silhouetted against the sky:
But when you get closer, you can see the arcs of hornet-made paper, glued by hornet “spit” to build the outer layers of the nest:
Some brave creature tore off the bottom of this nest:
The outer layers of protective paper were torn away, exposing the inner cells — hexagonal tubes that look a bit like honeycomb:
Now, I’m not going to get all didactic and lecture you about the differences between honeybees and hornets. Let’s just say they both sting if you get too close, you’re not going to get much honey from a hornet, and honeybees won’t help control the fly population around your home. If you want to learn more, check out these online references:
- Who Are You calling a Bee, Mister?! Identifying Bees, Wasps, Hornets and Their Nests
- Wikipedia on Bald-faced Hornets
- Iowa State University on Baldfaced Hornets (I guess there’s more than one way to spell it.)
- Ohio State University Honey Bee Laboratory on Paper Wasps and Hornets
- Wikipedia on a bunch of other wasps that are also called hornets
One of my Facebook friends had some advice for anyone who might consider bring a hornet nest inside for the winter. Patrick wrote, “I remember, as a kid, bringing one inside before the cold had done its deed to the hornets.” In other words, wait until there have been a couple of good hard freezes to kill off any remaining hornets (or other insects) inside the nest.
P.S. Thanks to the Columbus Park walker who told me where to find the broken-open nest!