European Hornet Facts
Also known as: giant hornet or brown hornet
The European hornet is a brown and yellow hornet that can sometimes be confused with its relative, the yellow jacket wasp. Even though it is one of the larger stinging insects in the United States, it tends not to bother people as long as they stay away from their nests. The first reported sighting of European hornets was in New York in the early 1840s. Since then, they have been found in almost every state east of the Mississippi River.
Should one or more European hornets attack you it is important to note that they can sting multiple times and do secrete venom. While most people do not suffer from allergic reactions to these stings, almost all experience some sort of swelling around the site of the wound, as well as redness and itchiness for about a day.
European Hornet Stings
If you are stung by European hornets, it is important to note that they can sting multiple times and secrete venom. There is a myth that multiple stings from a European hornet will kill a person. This is not true, European hornet stings are just the same as any other wasp sting. While most people do not have allergic reactions to European hornet stings, you may experience some sort of swelling around the site of the wound, as well as redness and itchiness for about a day.
European Hornet Infestation
European hornets make their home in elevated areas like hollow trees, or high up on buildings. When constructing her nest, the queen hornet will often gather pieces of bark from nearby trees. She does this by chewing bits from trees with thin bark into a paste-like substance. This process will typically leave small, thin rings around the trunk, often appearing as though it has been used as a scratching post. This may come as a relief to some, as European hornets are typically easier to get rid of than that bear you thought you had scratching up your trees! The queen will often return to the same tree multiple times rather than harvest from a new one, so these rings may even stretch the whole length of the trunk.
These giant hornets will often build their nests near homes or commercial buildings to keep it protected from the elements, but not typically inside of structures. Nests can sometimes be constructed vertically in the smaller cracks of tree trunks, with only a small portion visible at first glance. Other times the nest will appear like the more familiar bee’s nest -- a larger, sometimes football shaped, brown-colored mass that protrudes from a structure. Despite the European hornet’s ability to fly in the rain with relative ease, it still prefers to find shelter away from the elements. As such, the nest will typically not be exposed completely, and in commercial areas it may be hidden in signs on buildings, or even under raised terraces.
European hornets are almost always on the lookout for sweet foods. This means you may find them circling around that sugary soda or juice you’ve been drinking outside on a hot day. These hornets have also been known to search through our garbage to find food like fruit, although that’s not all they eat. They also have a taste for grasshoppers, caterpillars and even yellow jackets.
When worker hornets have hatched they will primarily eat the sap of local trees, often harvested from the same thin-barked ones used by the queen to make her nest. Sometimes, this feeding will cause the trees to die. This is one of the primary reasons the European hornet is considered a pest.
The European hornet is most active in the early spring and summer, but has been known to make brief appearances during warmer days in the winter. The aggressiveness of this pest depends on the proximity of humans to their nest, and any action to destroy or remove it. Unlike the similarly shaped (yet considerably smaller) yellow jacket, the European hornet is not typically aggressive toward people.
Types of European Hornets
European Hornet Identification
This wasp has an elongated thick body, long antennae, and wings about the size of their body length. While many are black-bodied near the head and yellow toward the rear, others have more of a reddish hue instead of black. This yellow and black combination makes them easily confused with yellow jackets, despite being considerably less aggressive. Their stinger is relatively small, but still powerful, and their wings are partially translucent and range in hue from red to grey to amber.
European Hornets In The Garden & The House
Because of the social nature of this hornet, the nests are considerably larger than most. This means it is easy to spot one so long as they are perched, and have not been embedded into the trunk of a tree (an uncommon but possible occurrence). Once a nest has been formed not much can be done on your own to exterminate it, and attempts to do so may be dangerous given the size of colonies. Once you notice a nest being constructed it is advised that professional consultation is brought in to determine the problem and if steps need to be taken to eliminate the European hornet infestation. While hornets are unlikely to wander into your home to search for food like other insects are, it may still be dangerous to have them so close to your home and family.
Frequently Asked Questions About Bell Hornets
What is the difference between European hornets and bees?
Bees appear more husky and hairy than hornets. Hornets tend to have smoother bodies, tapered waists and slimmer legs.
What is the difference between European hornets and wasps?
The European hornet is a type of wasp. You can usually distinguish hornets from other wasps because they are larger and rounder than other wasp species. In this case, European hornets are the biggest hornets in the United States.
Are European hornets aggressive?
Even though these giant hornets are the largest in the United States, they are not as aggressive as some wasp species. European hornets will aggressively defend their nests and may get hostile if you are near their food.
Benefits of Professional European Hornet Pest Control
A pest management professional has the education, equipment and skills necessary to effectively address a european hornet problem. Finding and treating the european hornet nest can be challenging, especially if the main nest is hidden somewhere outside. A pest management professional provides their expertise to identify and determine the best possible solution to resolve the European hornet infestation.