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Bald-faced Hornets: Master Builders

August 11, 2013

“What use is a hornet?” The question left me flumoxed for a moment. I am more accustomed to asking “role do humans play in the ecosystem?” It was not, however, the time to ask that question of someone who had just been stung.

This summer there has been a large hornet nest in the woods behind the house. They are truly fascinating insects and the nest itself is a marvel of nature. The hornets scrape wood with their mandibles, mix the wood with their saliva and then build the outside of the nest with the resultant paper. Inside are layers of platforms made of hexagonal cells made from the same material – the strongest and most spacially economic shape in nature. All accomplished without thumbs and the much exalted mammal brain.

Next time I am asked “What use is a hornet?” I will try to point out that you could also ask: how can a hornet, an insect just a few days old, know to construct such a marvel?

A large Bald-faced hornet nest

A large Bald-faced hornet nest

checking the nest

checking the nest

Flying from the nest

Flying from the nest

Building the nest

Building the nest

Bald-faced Hornets at the nest

Bald-faced Hornets at the nest

Coming home

Coming home

all writing and photos copyright Joanne Siderius 2013.

2 Comments
  1. Great photos, Joanne! I’ve never seen a hornets nest up close and personal.

    • Using a telphoto kept me from annoying the hornets – and it was early enough that they were still a bit drowsy!

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