Springtime Hornet (Dolichovespula maculata)

It was a cool and rainy morning, as have been many, many days so far this spring. We were walking up the front steps of Julie’s house. For much of the year, we go there once or twice a week to work on our natural history drawing.

On the steps, covered with water droplets, was a whitefaced hornet.

The white faced (or baldfaced) hornet isn’t a “true” hornet, but is a close relative of the notoriously ill-tempered yellowjacket.

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Latin name: Dolichovespula maculata

She was not a happy hornet.

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Still too cold and wet to fly. Not too cold to try. 

If you ever encounter one of these critters, the best course to take is to give them a wide berth. They’re touchy, crabby, and easily provoked.  Their sting is strong. Years ago I was installing a sign out at the airport when one of these flew up my pants leg and stung its way out. Three days later my leg had gotten so swollen and sore that I could hardly walk. Weeks elapsed before the swelling from the sting was gone.

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Chilled, and covered with water droplets, she can’t move very fast. But see how she glares, see how she holds a leg up, ready to hook herself on to you and to start stinging. Back off!

I took one more close-up photo.

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Beat it!  

On those stairs, she was in danger of being stepped on and squashed. I broke a twig off a yew bush next to the steps, and brushed it over her. She grabbed on, and I dropped her and the twig into the pachysandra patch on the ground below. Good luck to you, and please find a place to nest that’s away from people.

In her honor, I have composed a hymenopteran haiku.

The wet, wet hornet. 
She was grumpy as hell, too. 
Not a cuddly bug.

 

 

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