Bald-Faced Hornet

Actual Size: 12-15 mm

Characteristics: Black with white or ivory-colored pattern on face

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

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


  • Can sting repeatedly due to their smooth stinger
  • Known to be a more aggressive insect that defends their nest
  • Live in colonies with one queen and hundreds of members

Bald-Faced Hornets in Iowa

Bald-faced hornets are closely related to yellowjackets, but are different in several ways. instead of the typical yellow markings, bald-faced hornets are mostly black with white/ivory-colored markings on their face. These insects are known to be quite aggressive and are capable of stinging repeatedly. They are most active during the day and consume sugary substances along with insects. Because they prey upon other insects, these wasps are considered a beneficial addition to our environment. However, their aggressive habits and nest-building tendencies in residential areas here in Des Moines can make them a threat.

Bald-Faced Hornet Habitat

These insects often build their large paper nest around areas where humans live, work and play. These hornets build gray colored, egg-shaped nests that can become quite large, some growing to 24 inches in length and 30 inches in diameter. Nests are created in spring and early summer by worker hornets chewing on natural wood fibers. Bald-faced hornets will construct nests in trees, under eaves, around light structures on buildings and inside children’s playhouses. Because they’re frequently in areas where people live, it’s important to never approach a nest even if it appears to be empty.

Bald-Faced Hornet Behavior & Threats

Bald-faced insects are most known for their slightly aggressive behavior, even when unprovoked. They can sting a target repeatedly without harming itself. 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. If you notice a nest near your property, it is important to contact a professional wasp control company for stinging insect control or nest removal.