The Hornet

The hornet is one of several stinging insects. They are a subset of wasps and are highly social insects that live in colonies. Hornets can be dangerous if one is allergic to their bites. If there is a hornet nest near your residence, it is best for everyone if it is removed.


Hornet Nest

Hornet Nest

Hornets, bees, wasps, yellow jackets… they all sting people, don’t they? Yes, but they are all different creatures even if they induce similar scared reactions in people. For many, it can be confusing to identify between these stinging insects.

  • Hornets are slightly larger than wasps and are more orange in color. They are generally shy creatures. They have a relatively larger top margin of the head.
  • Yellow jackets are ground-nesting wasps. They have a very painful sting.
  • Bees live in hives and produce honey. They usually sting just once. They are fat and fuzzy!
  • Wasps are thinner and darker than bees and hornets. They can sting multiple times.

The most common hornets found near American households are the bald-faced hornet and the European hornet. Every year thousands of Americans have to seek medical assistance due to stings by these hornets. Hornet stings can cause severe allergic reactions in some cases. However, it is not deadly unless the person has been stung multiple times in a row and has had an anaphylactic shock.

Characteristics of Hornets

  • Bald-faced hornets are black in color and are more than ½ inch in length
  • They have white marks on their face and body
  • European hornets are fatter and are brown in color with yellow stripes
  • Adult European hornets can grow up to 1 ½ inches in length
  • All Hornets have the ability to sting multiple times
  • They have a smooth stinger
  • Aggressive only when their nest is approached or threatened
  • European hornets look for sap from trees and can damage shrubs and other plants
  • They prefer making nests quite above the ground
  • European hornets choose to reside in trees, barns, attics, inside of chimneys
  • Bald-faced hornets’ nest in trees, side of tall buildings, overhangs


Hornets prefer making nests around vegetation. They feed on flowers and fruits. They also make sure a water source is nearby. If your house is nestled among dense vegetation, don’t be surprised if you find a hornet nest nearby. If it is situated far away from your house, don’t worry about it. Remember, they only attack if they feel threatened.


  • Make sure there is less dense vegetation around your house. Or you can have a garden slightly further away from the house.
  • Fix all leaking pipes and drainage. Make sure there are no pools of water in empty buckets or barrels lying outside. Cut off those water sources for the hornets.
  • Fix all cracked doors, windows, and walls. Hornets shouldn’t be able to simply fly into your house.
  • Check the roof to see if it needs repairing. Missing tiles and broken roofs often attract hornets as it becomes a convenient place for them to make a home.
  • Make sure the chimney is not damaged.
How to Prevent Hornets

How to Prevent Hornets. By Erich Ferdinand from Germany – Hornet, CC BY 2.0, 

It is better to prevent hornets than to wait for them to make a nest and then try to eliminate them. Never try eliminating or removing a hornet nest on your own, they have painful bites that can cause severe welting and rashes. A professional pest control service is the best way to remove a hornet den. In most cases, if the hornet nest is far away from the house, there is no need to mess with them at all. Only choose to remove the nest if the hornets have started posing a threat to your safety! If you see hornets flying inside your house, you definitely need some pest control.

Life Cycle Of Hornets

Hornets are eusocial insects that live in colonies with systematic work duties. Mating takes place during the ‘nuptial flight’. This usually occurs during spring. The fertilized female is the queen, who chews up tree bark to make a row of cells. In this comb, eggs are laid in each cell. The eggs hatch in around 6 days, and then the larva undergoes metamorphosis in five stages. After the larva are full grown, they become workers. Only the queen can lay eggs; the workers carry out other duties.

As the number of members increases, the colony grows bigger with more and more combs. At the peak of its population, the queen gives rise to fertilized individuals that are females and unfertilized ones that turn into male drones. These males later take part in nuptial flights for mating. Mating takes place only with the queen. Males often die after mating. A colony at its peak can have more than 700 members.

Role Of Hornets In The Ecosystem

There are 20 discovered hornet species in the world. Hornets keep the insect population in check as they eliminate many bees and flies. They catch small insects to feed their larvae. Hornets are in fact beneficial insects that are important to the balance of the ecosystem. Indirectly, by feeding on smaller insects, hornets make sure that the diverse plant population survives and thrives. They can even act as pollinators at times.

Hornet Facts

  • Hornets have C-shaped eyes.
  • Hornets are ‘predatory wasps’.
  • They chew tree bark into a pulp to make their nest.
  • Hornets can eat bees.
  • The queen hornet lives for a bit more than a year.
  • Scouts (hornet individuals) search for beehives and leave behind pheromones to attract other hornets.
  • Some species of a hornet can reach up to 5cm or more in length.
  • They belong to the genus Vespa.
  • They are slightly similar in appearance to yellow jackets.
  • Their bite is painful and can cause welting and other allergic symptoms.

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