Hornet Nest Discovery

I got a knock on the door the other day and it was my neighbor. “Shawna you’ve got to come look at this!” We went around the corner of my house and up in the tallest branch of our magnolia tree was a big hornets’ nest. I had never noticed it before because the tree was usually full of leaves, but now winter has left it bare.

The outer shell of the nest is called an envelope. It looks kind of like a head of lettuce. The hornets make it by cutting and chewing up wood with their powerful mandibles. They mix the wood pulp with saliva and it’s converted into a paper substance. Over time the hornets create an elaborate tiered nest that houses thousands.

If you’d like to learn more about how the hornets build their nests this is an excellent resource!

In doing some further research on the all mighty google we found out that it’s the bald faced hornet that builds these types of nests.


Interesting Fact #1 – The queen bald-faced hornet is the only one of her nest that survives over winter. She will hunker down in a rotting log or other protected spot. The workers do not die until freezing temperatures have really set in. So don’t approach a nest until there is no signs of life and it’s really cold out!

Interesting Fact #2 – Their nest is generally abandoned by winter and will not be reused.

Interesting Fact #3 – If you try to approach them during their working season prepare to be stung. The queen will sting repeatedly to protect the nest and will attack with little provocation. We had a lot of these guys flying around our place last summer. I got stung twice.

We put the nest in a ziplock baggy and the kids are going to take it to their school to share with their classes.

Have you ever found a hornets nest? Where was it built?

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Shawna is passionate about getting kids outside, a pro at procrastinating laundry day and an advocate of impromptu road trips. She's been in the recreation industry for 18 years.

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3 Responses

  1. Linda says:

    Wow, that was HUGE! We found a hornets nest under the eaves of our house once and my hubby tried to spray it and he was attacked by the whole swarm. He got away with out being stung, but he was just plain lucky! The stings really hurt.

  2. Kate C says:

    I was told the whole time I was growing up in St. Louis that the higher the hornets build their nests, the more snow we’ll see that year. I have not been able to positively correlate these two phenomena as an adult, but I like to think it’s possible. :)

  3. Shawna says:

    That’s so interesting Kate. I’ve never heard that but ya…fingers crossed it’s true :)

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