Bald-Faced Hornet

Actual Size: 12-15 mm

Characteristics: Black with white pattern on face

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Live in paper nests that are at least three feet off the ground, often in trees or on the sides of buildings


  • Live in colonies between 100 and 400 members
  • Typically appear in late summer months but build nests in the spring
  • Queens are larger in size than their adult-worker counterparts

Bald-Faced Hornets in Illinois and Indiana

Bald-Faced Hornets are large flying insects and can be aggressive, especially when it comes to defending their nest. They are black in color and range from 1 to 1½ inches long. Bald-faced hornets are much thicker in stature than paper wasps and have two body sections with one pair of wings. These hornets are considered to be not quite as aggressive or difficult to control as yellowjackets, but they are still regarded as dangerous due to the size of the insect and relatively more intrusive sting. These beneficial wasps live in colonies with thousands of individuals and would be a lesser threat to humans if they did not nest in structural voids, attics, and cavities associated with landscaping features.

Bald-Faced Hornet Habitat

The bald-faced hornet is more likely to build its large, paper nest around areas where people live, work, and play here in Illinois and Indiana. A bald-faced hornet nest will typically be in a tree or shrub and be a classic, oval shape. The nests are made of paper (a solution of insect saliva and chewed material) and have several tiers of eggs inside. These nests are usually about the size of a basketball by the time they are noticed by anyone and are likely to be found in rhododendron bushes. The entry/exit hole is usually at the apex and usually at the bottom of the nest structure. There are usually between 60 to 100 hornets in a nest the size of a basketball.

Bald-Faced Hornet Behavior, Threats, & Dangers

Bald-faced hornet stings are venomous, and can cause pain and swelling for about 24 hours. People who are allergic to bee stings may have similar reactions to a bald-faced hornet sting. Bald-faced hornets scavenge in trash receptacles and forage upon food and beverages consumed outdoors. They also consume ripe fruit in gardens, farms, and vineyards. In the autumn, the combination of cooler temperatures and reduced food stimulates newly emerged reproductive wasps to seek warm shelter, and they are more likely to invade homes.

Again, bald-faced hornets are known to be a more aggressive wasp species. If a nest is located near human activity, it is important to contact a professional wasp control company.