European Hornets

Actual Size: ½ to 1.4”

Characteristics: Large, brownish-colored with dull orange stripes and pale face.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Nest in followed out trees, barns, hollow walls in buildings, attics, and even abandoned beehives.


  • The only “true hornet” in the United States.
  • Unlike most stinging insects, these hornets are active at night.
  • Although large and fierce-looking, this wasp is rarely aggressive.

European Hornets in Georgia

European Hornets have a yellow, black, and burgundy/brown color pattern. They are much larger than many other wasps/hornets, with workers ranging from about 2.3-2.6 cm in length. The queens are even larger, maxing out around 3.0-3.5 cm in length. The larval stages (juveniles) of these wasps feed on pre-chewed insects provided to them by the female workers. The adults are nocturnal foragers and can be attracted to lights at night. They feed on insects and the sap of trees. The process in which they retrieve this sap is called girdling. These wasps were introduced to North America but did not originate here. The first documented record comes from New York in 1840

European Hornet Habitat

Unlike bald-faced hornets, European hornets usually build their nests in cavities or voids. Attics, open pipes, tree holes, etc. are the perfect nesting locations for these insects. They also have a paper nest, but it’s tan in color and more brittle than the bald-faced hornet’s nest. An average hornet nest will have 200 to 400 workers by late summer and they can become aggressive if they feel threatened.

European Hornet Behaviors, Threats, or Dangers

These insects can be dangerous because they have nests in hidden locations that can easily be stumbled upon. While out foraging these wasps are not generally aggressive, but if you come across their nest accidentally they will attack to protect the nest. If you happen across one of their nests, leave the area quickly and calmly (avoid flailing as that is seen as an attack and will result in even more stings). Avoid trying to wait them out by jumping into a body of water (such as a pool or lake); they won’t go away but will wait for you to come up for air and then proceed to sting you (possibly even to death).

If a European hornet nest is suspected on your property, it is always best to contact a professional hornet control expert.