What are these Big Black wasps?

They're living in harmony with the yellow jackets in the trees right outside my house. They are twice as long as your average yellowjacket (you know the kind that flies in your soda can at a picnic?) and all black with a white face pattern. The first time I saw one I thought it was a huge june bug, but then upon closer inspection realized it's a wasp/hornet of some kind.
My other question is I have something eating the leaves of my tiarella to the ground, but I don't have any Japanese Beetles this year. Any ideas? No, caterpillars, lots of ants though. I'm near Chicago in Zone 5.
TIA, Inattendue
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Bald faced hornets, perhaps? http://www.muenster.org/hornissenschutz/baldfaced/baldfaced.htm
They are not aggressive unless disturbed, unlike yellow jackets, and do a lot of good in the garden eating pests. In the fall they also feed on fallen fruit, and are interesting to watch--you can get quite close when they are in a rotting fruit feeding frenzy.
Cheers, Sue
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Sue,
You're fantastic! That's exactly what they are. Do you know if they would share a hive with yellow jackets? I doubt it but the tree in front of my house is "filled" with both types. I've already told my DF to be very careful when he goes into the attic next time. I'll keep you all posted! Thanks for the id!
Jen in Chicago
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I have lots of them. They tend to build in protected areas like in inside corners under the eves. I had some living in an seldom used gas grill. They seem to be attracted to my cannas where they spend the day scouring the leaves for insets. I have never had any problems with them being aggressive.
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