Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta, Order Hymenoptera, Suborder Apocrita, Family Vespidae, Genus Vespa, Species V. crabro

European Hornets are best identified by their larges heads, thick bodies, and dumbbell-like or teardrop-like markings that are perpendicular to the body stripes. European Hornets are often seen with a pulsating stinger area.  European Hornets are about 50% brown or reddish-brown with yellow stripes on the abdomen and a pale-orange face. The workers can sting and may or may not be aggressive around the nest. Some people have reported being stung within 20 feet of the nest without provocation.


The queen measures 25 to 35 mm (1–1.4 in) long. Workers are 18–24 mm. In males, as in most members of the Aculeata (characterized by ovipositor into a stinger), the antennae have 13 segments, while in females there are only 12; also as in other aculeates, the male abdomen has seven visible segments, while the female has six; females possess an ovipositor modified into a sting which is not barbed.

Gentle, but can be aggressive when fighting for prey at night, or when encountered in a confined space, such as an attic or inside a room, or when defending their nest.

[VIDEO UNAVAILABLE ... will be looking for a new one.]
Video showing size comparison of European Hornets and Yellow Jackets at a Hummingbird feeder.

The European hornet, Vespa crabro (Linnaeus), gets its name from the fact that it was brought to the United States from Europe. The hornet may have been brought intentionally to feed on a pest that was hurting trees needed for the paper industry. The European Hornet is first known to be in New York about 1840-1850, according to multiple sources. The European Hornet has spread west to the Dakotas and south to Louisiana and Florida, and is also known as the giant hornet and brown hornet. The European Hornet is often mistakenly called an Asian Giant Hornet, which is more notorous for fatal attacks in China and Japan.

If Sighted Near Living Areas
If a European Hornet is found inside your house, DON'T open your fireplace/chimney flue until you have the attic and chimney inspected by a professional exterminator. The hornets have been known to nest in unused chimneys. A single hornet might just be a stray or a scout that happened to be passing the area, but if the flue is opened and there is a nest on the other side, the house could fill with angry hornets, which would be very dangerous. Better safe than sorry. You should call a professional exterminator like Orkin or some other exterminator that can respond with personal protection to inspect the house.

If European Hornets are near your house, you should also be aware of flight patterns that might show them going in and out of an attic roof gable area, underneath a patio deck, a shed or garage, or a void space in a tree. If you see a flight pattern, you might have a nest on your property.

European Hornets may be attracted to porch lights or lighted windows even if their nest is not on your property.

European hornets are social insects, which means they live in a colony. The colony starts in the spring with a fertilized queen that spent the winter hibernating. The queen finds a place to build a nest, using chewed-up cellulose from decayed wood to build the nest, which is usually located in holes in trees, and usually far from human habitats. However, European Hornets are known to make nests in attics or wall voids of homes and occasionally in the ground or under patio decks. When nests are built in voids in a building, part of the exterior nest can be exposed on the outside of buildings, but not always. The entrance to nests are frequently 2 meters (6 feet) or more above ground. In some instances, a portion of the gray, papery nest extends outside the cavity or void.

A nest has also been reported in a chimney, which allowed European Hornets to invade a family room living space when a chimney flue was opened an inadvertantly allowed the hornets into the room.

Europen Hornet nests rarely appear freely suspended like the football-shaped nest of the bald-faced hornet -- a hornet which aggressively protects its nest.

Initially in spring, the nest only has a few cells, where the queen lays an egg in each cell. When the eggs hatch, the queen feeds the larvae nectar and insects. When the larvae have developed into adult workers, they take over the work of building cells and feeding larvae. The workers are sterile female insects. The queen continues to produce eggs during the summer as the population of workers grows. Worker hornets keep expanding the nest and bringing food for the larvae.

The activity of the worker hornets becomes more frenzied later in the summer season, as it becomes more difficult to bring enough food for the growing larvae population.

By September or October European hornet colonies may be populated by 300 or more workers (maximum of 800–1,000 workers).

European Hornets are rarely seen, unless they build a nest near where humans are located, or when they hunt at night for large insects flying near porch lights. They can be attracted at night to lit windows, when they frighteningly bang into windows while hunting for food. A few strays may be spotted inside a living space in a house. This is an indication to practice an abundance of caution, and to call a pest control professional to inspect attics or unused areas of homes, garages or sheds to make sure there is no nest. Activity of the colony slows down in late Fall and dies off by winter. European Hornets rarely use the same nest the following season.

In late summer, male hornets and fertile females begin to hatch. The males mate with the fertile females. Some of the larvae are queens for new colonies that will develop the following spring. Fertilized females seek a hiding place above freezing to spend the winter. The males and the workers die as winter approaches.

Hornet Food
Food for the European Hornets includes caterpillars, crickets, grasshoppers, large flies, and the workers of other yellowjacket species. European Hornets fly and hunt at night, which is unusual for most other species. The European Hornets may appear to be attacking humans when humans are in the same space where hornet's prey are located -- namely a lit porch, for example.

Hornet Control and Eradication
Professional pest control services are highly recommend to rid a home, garage or shed of a European Hornet nest. NEVER plug the hornets' entrance without eliminating the actual nest, because European Hornets may chew through an interior wall into a living space to escape.  There are reports that European Hornets may also attempt to create a new entrance/exit when liquid insecticides are sprayed into the known entrance.  A professional and qualified pest management or pest control company with protected and experienced personnel is recommended, because an accidental encounter with the nest, especially in a confined interior space, could be fatal.

Qualified professional understand the safe application of pesticides, which are poisonous, and can harm children, pets, and livestock. Care should be taken not to contaminate, living spaces, food, forage, streams, or ponds.

See also ...
European Hornet --