I have been reading up on what this is. It’s in one of the white pines very close to the main entrance to the house. This is a baldfaced hornet nest. We noticed it about two weeks ago, which is when people often spot them (late summer, early fall). That’s when the nest starts reaching basketball size. This one is sized somewhere between a soccer ball and a basketball at the moment. If you don’t mess with baldfaced hornets, they don’t mess with you. But if you do manage to disturb them, apparently there is almost no end to the number of times one of these hornets can sting you. There can be several hundred hornets that call one nest a home. Since I am not positive what the rules of engagement are, I have decided to experiment and see what heights regular grass can grow to if left unmowed under the spreading boughs of a white pine.
About that nest. The queen’s daughter workers chew wood fiber, mix it with the starch in their spit, and that’s how this beauty of a beast is formed. One hornet mouthful at a time. It’s basically paper. The nest will be safe to remove after a few hard frosts. I’m planning on leading Steve’s cheering section when he mounts our offensive. We could probably safely leave the nest alone because the hornets freeze and die as cold temperatures move in. Nests are not re-used. The new queens hibernate outside the nest, waiting for the warmer weather to return. And then it all starts over again for Dolichovespula Maculata. Hopefully not right outside our door though.
Here’s a close up of this lovely minor pollinator, from the wonderful website devoted to “Hornets, the Gentle Giants,” with credit to the biology department at Jackson State University: