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European Hornets

The European hornet is originally native to central Europe. The species was first brought over to North America in New York during the mid 1800ís. The European hornet is a member of the vespid family and is technically the only hornet in North America. These are social hornets that become very aggressive when they feel their nest is threatened; otherwise they are not too aggressive. Despite some stories, a European hornetsí sting is no more dangerous than wasp stings, however they may seem more intimidating because of their size but they are no more dangerous than other social wasps. Yet they can still be a nuisance. Sometimes European hornets will forage for food at night and may be attracted to lights. This can cause them to fly into windows with surprising force. A second reason these hornets are unpleasant to have around is because of the bad smelling black liquid that drips from their nests which can cause stains on walls and decks. European hornets are also destructive to their natural habitat: woodlands and forests, even backyard trees.

Removing rings of bark from tree branches is a common practice for European hornets; they can feed on the sap from the wounded branch as well as using the bark for the construction of their nest. And weíre not the only ones who need to worry about European hornets, they have been known to raid bee and wasp nests for food for their own offspring, which could be detrimental to domestic bees as well.

Physical Characteristics
European hornets are large flying insects. They measure from twenty-five to thirty-eight millimeters, with queens being the largest and workers being smaller. Their body build is sturdy and powerful. European hornets have yellow and black stripes on their abdomen, and reddish-brown and black colouring on their head and thorax, with red-orange wings. They do have some hairs on their thorax and abdomen but not as much as bees, so they do not appear to be fuzzy. In male European hornets there are seven visible segments in the abdomen, while females only have six visible segments and a stinger on their abdomens.

The European hornetís natural habitat is in woodland areas. In this situation they would build their nest in hollow trees, or other cavities. As the human population has grown closer to nature, European hornets have found suitable places for their nests in wall voids, attics, porches and sheds. Generally European hornet nests are found well above ground and you may see the nest protruding from the cavity it is in. Occasionally you can find a European hornet nest out in the open. In this case the nest will have an outer covering to protect the combs inside. Their nests can be distinguished from wasps by their darker brown colouring. This comes from the bark and other plants European hornets use to make a paper like material which is what they build their nests out of. Inside a nest there are usually six to nine combs containing 1500 to 3000 cells, where offspring are raised. European hornets are protective of their nests and will become aggressive if they feel it is threatened.

Life Cycle
Every year in the spring European hornet queens set out to start a new colony from scratch. She is the only survivor of the old colony after the winter. Queens over winter underneath tree bark, inside walls or in other sheltered areas. The queen will start of by finding a suitable place for a nest where she will begin construction on the new nest. Next she lays eggs; these first eggs will produce sterile female workers. Once they pass through the four growth stages: egg, larva, pupae and adult these workers will be ready to take over the tasks of foraging for food, caring for larvae and building and defending the nest. Young European hornets are fed pre-chewed meat such as crickets, grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars and the workers of smaller yellow jackets and bees. Inside the combs of the nest there are cells where one egg each will be laid, this is where the hornets mature. A colony can have 300 to 500 workers and even up to 1000 in larger colonies. In the fall the queen will lay eggs that develop into fertile males and females who mate. These females will become queens in the next spring. Workers stay active until mid October, until it become to cold and the entire colony dies off except the future queens. Future queens will overwinter and start the cycle again next spring.

Pest Control Services
A technician will come out to your property and do an inspection. Extermination requires a combination of sprays and dust. European Hornets are rare in southern Ontario however by the end of summer nests are usually large and aggressive. These hornets fly fast and may sting repeatedly as well as being very large with some workers 1.5 inches long.

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