European Hornet

European Hornet

  • Common Name(s): European Hornet
  • Order: Hymenoptera
  • Family: Vespidae
  • Common Species: Vespa crabro
  • Commonly Confused With: Cicada Killers, Other Hornets/Wasps


How to Identify?
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.


Where do they live?
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. The image below is what you will usually see when you find a European hornet nest.

Food Source

What do they eat?
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.


What do they do?
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).

Fun Fact

These wasps were introduced to North America but did not originate here. The first documented record comes from New York in 1840 (Jacobs, 2000).


Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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