Where does the queen sleep away the winter chill? This particular one was nestled inside a dead pine log on the forest floor. She was perfectly safe and content -- at least until we came along :(
When we rolled the log to check for salamanders, it broke apart and revealed itself as the winter home of this queen bald-faced hornet (Vespula maculata). She mated in the late summer or early fall and now waits patiently for the warmth of spring when she will emerge and begin a new colony.
Luckily, we were able to piece the log back together so perhaps we didn't do any lasting damage to this sleeping beauty -- we'll keep an eye on things throughout the rest of the winter though, just to be sure.