Pest Facts: European Hornet


European Hornet

What does a European hornet look like?

Also known as the giant hornet, the European hornet is large—between 3/4 and 1-1/2 inches with brown, orange and yellow markings.  

Do European hornets sting?

Yes.  And their stingers are smooth, meaning they can pull it out and use it many times over.  If that wasn’t enough, they also deliver a dose of venom with each sting, which can cause swelling and other reactions for about 24 hours in most people.  They are most aggressive in the fall when protecting their nests.

Where do European hornets live?

European hornets build nests in a variety of places, including inside walls, in out buildings or garages, hollow trees or even abandoned nests from other bees.  The outside of their nests are protected by a lumpy layer of brownish colored dried cellulose, compared to the gray paper of other hornets.


European hornets were introduced to the Northeast in the 1800s from Europe, hence their name.  They live in colonies of several hundred, showing up in late summer to feed on large insects like other bees, flies and grasshoppers.  


Other than their aggressive behavior during the fall, these bees can also do a number on your shrubs and trees.  They strip the bark of trees to access the sap inside, which could easily threaten the health and vitality of your landscape.


As with other exclusion practices, make sure your property stays tidy so there are fewer places for bees or other pests to hide.  Be sure to clean up any fallen fruit or vegetables from garden areas, as European hornets are drawn to this type of decay. 

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