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.