There are two hornets that are often pests in residential areas; the European or giant hornet, and the bald-faced or white-faced hornet.  The European hornet is brown, yellow, and black in color while the bald-faced hornet is black and white and has a white face.   Both are considered beneficial wasps, feeding on garden insects; these two would be a lesser threat to humans if not for their opportunistic behaviors.  Both wasps build nests in between walls, inside attics, surrounding landscape, and nearby trees.
Bald-faced Hornet

The Bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculate) is also called the “white-faced hornet.”

Nesting Colonies and Reproduction

Hornets tend to build nests in unsuitable areas exposed to wind and rain, yet when a nest meets a catastrophe by nature, or human, the hornets come back to the original spot and start building all over again.  And like honey bees, hornets are not as aggressive as people may think but will sting if their nest is nearby or they are stepped on.  Rather than attack, the European hornet actually crawls backwards as if trying to flee if someone gets to close.
Hornet's nest

Bald-faced Hornet´s Nest

Queen hornets produce new colonies each year; only mated queens live through the winter months by hiding out, tucked away in sheltered places. Come spring, queens create a small paper nest for the first batch of eggs. Once these “worker” wasps mature, they expand the nest, building for the next generation. Each colony may have up to 200 members. By late summer, the old queen dies and a new one mates before her sisters die off, over-wintering until spring, and repeating the wasp life cycle once again.

Hornet Eating Habits

Hornets are predators, hunting down and eating insects, not only for themselves but to feed to their larvae. Sometimes they provision their nests with caterpillars for feeding their young once hatched. Hornets will eat other wasps like yellowjackets and large insects such as grasshoppers, flies, and honey bees. However, they also are fond of nectar and fruit juices. Because hornets feed on tree sap as well, they can cause damage to tree bark as they strip the bark to get to the sap. They also use bark fiber to build their nests.
European Hornet

The European hornet (Vespa crabro) is also known as “giant hornet.”

Managing Hornets

For human beings, the sting of a hornet or other wasp is very painful. Individuals allergic to bee stings, also have to be careful around wasps. Wasps, unlike bees, can sting multiple times. When out pollinating, wasps do not sting unless threatened, or it may be that a person is unknowingly near a nest; in that case, the worker wasp role is one of security guard and she will sting in order to protect her hive (males do not have stingers). Typical guard behavior for a hornet, if her nest is in danger, is how she flies out of the nest and around, coming in from behind, then stings her assailant. Knocking down a nest doesn´t always work right away because hornets will come back the next day to rebuild, usually in the exact place. If you have a hornet´s nest on or near your home, the best solution is to have a service professional with proper attire and equipment remove the nest rather than risk the chance of being stung. Some of the steps homeowners can take to prevent wasps are: Avoid leaving open food containers outdoors during spring and summer when wasps are prevalent. Keep garbage cans tightly sealed at all times, and seal off any openings to your home where wasps may build their nests. References Mallis, A. Handbook of Pest Control, Tenth Edition, Saunders College Publishing, 2011. Print Imes, R. The Practical Entomologist, A Fireside Book, Simon & Schuster Inc., 1992. Print University of California Agricultural & Natural Resources, UC Riverside, IPM (Integrated Pest Management). Online Please contact us if you have a hornet nest on or near your home:
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