Bald Faced Hornet unprovoked aggressive beehavior (pun intended) - unusual?

Asked August 23, 2017, 5:51 PM EDT


I've experienced some strange attack behavior in either Bald Faced hornets (caught one big one), or Western Yellowjackets (have both, but not sure which is the culprit) here in Washington state, and would sincerely appreciate any feedback you may have regarding this situation.

It seems I have been targeted and have been stung multiple times in exactly the same place on my head in four separate occasions! Two times as I was picking blackberries and without warning I heard a loud buzz, then ZAP, stung on the back of my head. Ok, so I was in their territory, likely near a nest within the bushes I did not see - got it, my bad. These two occurrences were in areas about 130 yards apart, roughly a week apart.

What is strange is that a couple days after the second sting while working within my garage, again without warning I got the same buzz, then ZAP - gawd that hurts! In this area there are no nests, and I would be at least 8 yards from any bushes or trees. After cleaning the back of my head to remove any pheromone possibly present with: alcohol (99%), then white vinegar, and finally applying citronella to the spot, I finally got the courage to go back to the garage. About two hours later at dusk when most flying bugs were gone, I let my guard down and removed the head covering I had put on for protection, then about 15 minutes later got another sting in exactly the same spot, and this wasp chased my assistant 10 yards and landed on the back of his neck before being swatted away.

Here is what I find very confusing:
- Four stings in the same spot on my head within 1 inch of each other, 3 of which were on different days, one additional on the same day
- Two times being stung without any provocation, no food present, nor any aggressive action by me toward the insect, nor any nest nearby
- Aside from the assistant on one occasion, neither my wife nor our dog have been stung or bothered by the wasps/hornets
- No warning or even sight of one, just one second of Buzzz, then kapow, like a hammer hitting the back of my head. The worst sting pain I've ever felt, immediate, then numbness, then after 3 or 4 minutes gone.

Are they recognizing me a week or days later being the guy who came too close to their nest? Perhaps I was sprayed with Attack Pheromone?

I look forward to your reply - thanks.

Skagit County Washington possible yellow jackets possible baldfaced hornet

1 Response

Dear Client,

We have both baldfaced hornets and multiple species of yellowjackets that can be aggressive towards vertebrates and will sting, sometimes without any apparent provocation. Often multiple stings will occur when you get too close to the hive and unlike honey bees, a single yellowjacket can sting multiple times. While baldfaced hornets are known for their large arboreal paper nests with a single hole at the base of each nest, yellowjackets can nest in in similar, but usually smaller, paper nests, subterranean nests and even within voids in walls or hidden in nooks and crannies of buildings and homes. Typically, you can locate a nest by watching multiple insects entering and exiting holes leading to the nest. With these different nest types, sometimes locating a nest can be challenging, painful and even life-threatening especially if you are or become allergic to stings.

To make things worse, as the summer comes to an end and autumn starts, yellowjackets do become ornery and do sting with little provocation as their hive size peaks (with number of wasps) and food supplies (particularly live insects) begins to diminish. Scout wasps start seeking additional sugars and proteins to supplement their diet. For me, the incidence of wasp stings goes way up during the Fair season, when wasps begin to scavenge for food in trash baskets, bins and even picnic sites.

the alarm pheromone produced by bees and wasps does not last very long at all (maybe only minutes), so you cannot be marked as an intruder for days on end. Don't fret that! I will attached a couple factsheets on yellowjackets and their management for you to review.

I sure hope this helps.