Hornets:  Facts, Identification & Control

Hornets belong to Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Arthropoda, Class Insecta and Order Hymenoptera, Family Vespidae. There are only about 20 species of true hornets in the world. The only specie of true hornet in the U.S. is the European hornet (Vespa crabro). As its common name suggests, the European hornet is an introduced species that came to the U.S. from Europe and has adapted to many regions of North America. The European hornet is yellow and brown in color and measures about 1 1/2 inches long.

While not a true hornet, the baldfaced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is included here since most people typically think of it as a hornet. The baldfaced hornet is about an inch long and is colored black and white. The behavior and habits of both the European hornet and the baldfaced hornet are very similar to yellow jackets, which are actually wasps. Size is the most easily recognized difference since yellow jackets are smaller than hornets.

Baldfaced hornets make aerial nests, circular in shape, about the size of a football or basketball and usually built in trees. European hornets tend to make their nests in secluded, aboveground locations like hollow trees, attics, porches and inside wall voids. Hornet nests are constructed with paper-like construction material produced by the hornets mixing their saliva together with wood they gather. During the nest-building time of year, it may not be unusual to see a hornet scraping away a thin layer of wood from a wooden fence, an old log or the side of an unpainted wooden building.

While hornets are known for their ability to inflict a painful sting, they are very beneficial predators and help to control a variety of insects that could otherwise become pests. However, hornets are social insects, so they will aggressively defend their colony (nest) from any intruders. While not as aggressive as yellow jackets, the baldfaced hornet, and to a lesser degree, the European hornet, quickly and assertively defend their nest when sensing danger.

It is always best to seek the advice and assistance of your pest management professional before attempting any do-it-yourself efforts for hornet control.

Bald-Faced Hornets

The bald-faced hornet belongs to the Genus Vespula. Bald-faced hornets are more closely related to yellow jackets than they are to hornets.

Hornet Nest

Hornet nests are composed of a paper substance derived from saliva and wood pulp. They are located within or atop trees, in attic rafters and in other covered areas.

Giant Hornets

The Vespa Crabro is also known as the European or giant hornet. The giant hornet closely resembles the bald-faced hornet.

What do Hornets Eat?

Hornets are predaceous and feed primarily on other insects. Controlled populations of hornets can assist in pest control, although a nest located near or inside a home may prove extremely dangerous to humans.

Bees and Hornets

Bees are flying insects that feed on pollen and nectar. They have segmented bodies, two pairs of wings and antennae. Of these species, the Western honeybee is most revered.

Getting Rid of Hornets

Pest control professionals should be consulted before attempting to treat any hornet infestation. Hornets are typically aggressive, and some individuals may be allergic to their sting.

European Hornets

This hornet was brought to the U.S. from Europe and is a large brown insect with yellow stripes and a pale face. European hornets eat grasshoppers, yellow jackets and bees.