Clinton County’s bald-faced hornet population appears healthy!

In my Oct. 19 column in The Lock Haven Express, I asked the readership to give me some leads on bald-faced hornet nests, to get some video footage and photographs. The response was overwhelming!

I had numerous emails and phone calls about nests. Some were hanging in trees while others were lower to the ground, in amongst shrub branches. One was even located 25 feet up a telephone pole, underneath the transformer.

Anything that required me to climb a ladder was quickly eliminated. I did not want to appear on a YouTube video, falling out of the sky with one hand clutching a video recorder and the other hand swatting away hornets.

While I couldn’t visit every site, I did get some good footage at several sites.

No stings were acquired during filming, as I was suited up in my bee suit. Whereas a honeybee can only sting once and then die, hornets can sting multiple times. No way was I going into this without skin protection. The hornets were pretty aggressive at some sites (it probably didn’t help that I shoved my weed whacker right next to the nest) and went after my video camera. Most of my time was spent a good 20 to 30 feet from the nest.

Please keep me in mind that I am still looking for some yellow jacket nests. This will probably have to wait until next year as these cold temperatures will kill them off.

Keeping with the spirit of the election cycle, I am going to pivot away from hornets to fungi. A photo came into the office with an individual holding a white spherical object. The object in questions was a giant puffball. This is a mushroom that is feeding off dead/decaying organic matter on the forest floor.

Most folks are more familiar with them when they reach maturity. A swift kick to a ‘ripe’ puffball results in a cloud of smoke. The smoke is actually millions of spores (analogous to seeds from a plant) that move to the surrounding environment to pass on the puffball’s genetic material into the next year.

Some of these puffballs can be up to four pounds.

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Tom Butzler is a horticulture educator with the Pennsylvania State University Cooperative Extension Service and may be reached at 570-726-0022.

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