About this time of year, for the past several years, most of my honeybee colonies would be fending off hundreds of yellow jackets daily. They also would deal with the occasional baldfaced hornet, but to a much lesser extent. This year however (so far), I have witnessed a grand total of 2 yellow jackets, and 2 baldfaced hornets attempting to harass my bees.
So why the picture of my topbar hive full of European hornets? It was back in May that I noticed a single, huge mother hornet enter my empty topbar hive. I looked through the viewing window to see an adorable little paper cone about the size of a silver dollar hanging from a bar. I was preparing to go in and smoosh it, along with mamma when I thought to spend a minute researching these things. I decided to leave it be, and if it got out of hand, then I’d kill it. It never really did get out of hand in my opinion, and it has been as interesting to observe as any other social insect colony. I’ve watched them for hours while they brought in large caterpillars, crickets, some things I couldn’t identify, and yes, baldfaced hornets and yellow jackets (and the occasional honeybee). At this point, the colony spans about 15 bars of the hive, the entrance is very busy, and the influx of chewed up hornets and wasps never stops (even at night and during the rain). Everyone warned me that they will terrorize and decimate my colonies, but I’m just not seeing it. They exit the hive and I watch as they disappear in the far off distance. I can’t help but think that their presence in my yard has contributed to the practical nonexistence of yellow jackets this year. I also can’t wait to open up the hive and look at the nest after winter sets in.