Saturday, June 30, 2012

bald-faced hornets and heat waves

Popping in briefly to share what I think is a fascinating example of how the larger ecosystem of November Hill works.

After a mild winter, in spite of using fly predators and fly strips and doing all the things one is supposed to do to reduce flies around the barn, we were still seeing what I consider a lot of them.

We used Summer Whinnies for Salina and Keil Bay as needed, liberal amounts of my summer of 2012 fly spray concoction, fly masks, and even with all this, I still felt there were just Too Many Flies.

Suddenly we noticed a new face around the barn.

These bald-faced hornets were around the barn doors, inside the barn itself, and although they didn't feel aggressive to me, we researched them to find out what we were dealing with.

As it turns out they are considered quite docile in terms of hornet personality, and I found several mentions online of these hornets hunting flies. So when I went back out, I started observing. Indeed, they were in the barn hunting flies. We decided to let them stay and see what happened.

A week later, in spite of rain and heat which usually make the number of flies explode, my sticky fly strips are nearly empty. The Summer Whinnies are in the tack room, clean and ready but not needed. The horses are happy and not fussing.

And the bald-faced hornets have moved on. I saw two yesterday.

We hoped to find their nest, but thus far haven't found it. These nests are pretty stunning to me, and I'd love to see one:

Now that the hornets are gone we're dealing with the heat wave that seems to be affecting much of the United States this weekend. Yesterday it was 101.8 in our barn aisle, and needless to say, we're doing a lot of cold hosing, feeding extra salt in the feed tubs, and keeping a close eye on all of us as we move on with routine during this extreme heat.

It is day two of a five-day wave, and we're moving slowly, taking our time with chores, keeping cold drinks in the barn, and of course doing no riding. 90 degrees F will seem like a cool spell after this!

Hope all are faring well as we move into July!


Grey Horse Matters said...

It's interesting about the hornets. I think it was a great idea to let them stay and help with the fly population. The nest looks very pretty. It amazes me how they make their hives. I hope you find one.

We've got very high temps too and humidity. The herd is spending the nights outdoors and if they want to come in during they day we let them. They like standing under their fans during the heat of the day with fresh water available and plenty of hay. There's no riding here either. Take care and stay cool.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

We're taking it easy here too. Salt, cool rinses and (!) watermelon. :)

I had experiences with those hornets last summer. (aka bald -faced hornets)

Please be careful - they are in fact aggressive, and the sting I got swelled my hand up like a baseball glove. I believe one also stung Val on his ankle.

I don't think they are flying around looking to attack but if you get near the nest, or are interfering with or in the way of their feeding, they'll get you good.

They eat spilled feed and mash as well. I got stung when I picked up Val's food pan for cleaning. :)

billie said...

A, you take care too - loved reading about Dusty and your rides today!

billie said...

C, wow - I have experienced no aggression at all with them. They seem to be gone for the most part, so my sense is they came when there were flies to eat and now they've depleted the supply have moved on.

I'm not sure what we would do to get rid of them - not willing to spray poison and the nest is as yet not anywhere we can find. My guess is it's in a tree in the forest.

I confess that I love the way they look - the black and white just seems so perfectly formed, and that nest - they are artists!

That said, one sting might make me change my tune. I got a bumblebee stuck in my sandal a week or so ago and I cried like a baby when it stung my toe. I guess I shouldn't have marched through its clover patch!

Calm, Forward, Straight said...


I had seen them buzzing around the food bowl for days and thought maybe they were some type of parasitic critter so I let them be.

They are quite striking looking, and I'd love to find an abandoned nest for closer inspection.

I agree that they probably move on when the food source is gone. Early in the season I saw them scraping on wood after it had rained. I think that's the raw material for their nests.

I give them a wide berth now, and clean Val's bowl and mat thoroughly. That seems to have sent them on their way. No more stings please!!

Stay cool!! Today is going to be challenging - the humidity is around 90% here. :)