The other night I went out to use my gas grill and I noticed a gray circular thing attached to a nearby shrub. Oh no! A wasp nest!
It was a good thing I saw it because I usually take plastic cover off the grill and throw it on the fence right at that spot. I would have had to run run run!
While my burgers were cooking I took the time to observe the nest. It is small, only about the size of a baseball. The wasps' bodies were mostly black, with white markings on the head and tail. It turns out that these are bald-faced hornets. I have never seen them before, although they are common throughout the US.
We have had wasp nests in our yard before so I know a little about them in general. Bald-faced hornets are not hornets at all—they are yellowjackets.They are basically "good" bugs who eat garden pests. Generally they build their nests high in trees or along the eaves of buildings. The nest can get as big as a basketball, and they use the nest for one year and then move on.
However, and this is a big one, like other yellowjackets and wasps, bald-faced hornets are aggressive defenders of their nests. This means that a nest that is high in a tree or along the eaves of a house can be left alone, but one that is in an area that has a lot of foot traffic, or is near food, should be removed. This means using insect spray at night (when they are asleep). And if you need light, use a flashlight covered with red plastic—because they cannot see red, so they will not see the light.
For more information on the bald-faced hornet, go to Penn State's Entomology Web site.