Hornets
(Vespa)

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The word hornet is often misused to describe an array of stinging insects, however, there are only two types of hornets in the United States.

Appearance
 

The word hornet is often misused to describe an array of stinging insects. There are two types of hornets found in the United States, the Baldfaced hornet and the European hornet. Baldfaced hornets are similar to yellow jackets and are in the same insect group. European hornets were introduced to New York in the 1840s from Europe and you can now find them in 31 states.

Adult European Hornet

  • Approximately 1-1.5in in length

  • They have two pairs of wings and six legs

  • They are brown with yellow abdominal stripes

  • They build nests in secluded places such as attics, trees, porches, and wall voids
     

Adult Baldfaced Hornet

  • They are approximately 5/8-3/4in in length

  • They are black with a pale pattern on the face, two stripes towards the head, and on the last three abdominal sections (they resemble a larger version of a yellow jacket)

  • They build large nests on tree branches, bushes, or in tree hollows

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Hornets are social insects that form colonies that dwell in nests. They build the nests by mixing their saliva with wood fibers they gather from their surroundings. Hornets are beneficial because they feed on a variety of insects and help control insect populations around their nests. However, they will aggressively defend their colony from intruders and their sting is very painful. So, if the nest is close to homes, buildings, or other populated recreational areas we recommend control.

Reproduction

Hornet colonies usually have an annual life cycle. The success of the colony depends upon the ability of hornet queens to survive the cold weather of winter, as they are the only member that survives during the winter months. The fertile female hornet queens that survive the winter begin building new nests and laying eggs in the spring. As the eggs hatch and become hornet grubs (larvae), the queen works to enlarge the nest and hunt to feed the larvae. Larvae mature through a pupal stage and develop into the first generation of hornet adults. At this point, the queen ceases her work enlarging the nest and feeding the nest members so she can concentrate her efforts on laying eggs.

Hornet colonies are then comprised of workers (sterile females), males, and queens. The first and subsequent generations of hornet workers assume the role of nest builders, protectors and food gatherers for the remaining members of the colony.

The queen begins to produce eggs in mid- to late-summer that will hatch and develop into sexually mature adult male and female hornets. These fertile hornet adults leave the nest, mate and the new fertile queens become the queens that must survive the cold winter conditions. Once the subsequent spring arrives, these queens will emerge to begin building and populating a new nest in a new location.

Signs of an Infestation

The most obvious signs of a hornet infestation are the presence of adults and their nests.

Treatments

To control a hornet problem, contact your pest management professional so they can inspect the property and correctly identity the type of hornet and its nesting sites. Once identified, they will develop a specific treatment plan that involves all of the effective treatment measures, whether preventive, non-chemical or chemical.

We do not recommend any do-it-yourself efforts to control hornets and destroy their nests. Hornets can sting multiple times and the stings produce intense pain, redness and swelling around the site of the sting. If someone is stung multiple times or is highly allergic to the insect’s venom, they need to seek medical help. However, should you decide to attempt to destroy a hornet’s nest, do so only after dark when most or all of the colony members have returned to the nest.