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When trimming shrubs this time of year you need to be on alert for baldfaced hornet nests. These are actually a type of wasp and build papery nests. These nests are often located on tree branches, buildings or in shrubs and can become quite large. Baldfaced hornets have black and whitish markings on the head and rear of the abdomen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bald-faced_hornet). They will defend their nests vigorously. Baldfaced hornets are capable of multiple stings as they retain their individual stingers.
Before embarking on that pruning project it pays to observe shrubs to be trimmed for any evidence of a nest. Flight activity of workers leaving and returning to nests is a good clue. If a nest is located in a shrub there is a good likelihood that you may not quickly notice it. Poking a hand in to grab a branch to prune often creates a response from the nest.
Nests are only used for one season. Next seasons queens leave the hive to overwinter while the rest of the nest perishes. Because these nests are not reused it may be wise not to attempt control unless it presents an everyday hazard.
Yellowjackets are another common type of wasp that you can run into when doing landscape work. They are named for their black and yellow coloring (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowjacket). Often people start to notice yellowjackets as the summer start passing and fall approaches when workers shift to securing carbohydrates from external sources. Their nests are also papery but are located in cavities either close to the ground, underground or within buildings. Nests are generally not observable. Most landscape encounters with yellowjackets comes when overgrown areas are cleaned up, shrubs are moved, old stumps cleaned up or a pass over a nesting area with a lawn mower. Again, when working in these areas it is wise to be alert for activity near you. Life cycle, stinging and nesting information is similar to baldfaced hornets.
Photos courtesy of wikipedia.org