W*H*Y Wednesday: European Hornet
Today's featured species is Vespa crabro, known commonly as the European Hornet -- or sometimes as a Giant Hornet.
European Hornets are easily recognized by their large size and black, yellow and rusty red coloration. About an inch long with a plump body shape, the European Hornet can appear rather intimidating. Their heads are yellow and red and thorax is black with red markings. The abdomen starts out red and continues with bands of yellow and black.
The European Hornet is found in the U.S. mainly East of the Mississippi and also in Minnesota, as illustrated in the highlighted portion of the map below.
Although typically active during the daytime, European Hornet workers may fly at night in humid, windless conditions and are attracted to external lighting and windowpanes. European Hornets have an exceptionally long seasonal cycle, reproducing from late August through November. Workers prey on a variety of insects -- including grasshoppers, flies, honeybees and yellowjackets -- to feed their larvae. Hornets can also "girdle" a variety of trees for sap, including ash, lilac, horse chestnut, dogwood, dahlia, rhododendron, boxwood and birch. This often results in the death of the tree.
European Hornet nests are typically built in hollow trees, but can also be found in barns, sheds, attics and wall voids in buildings. Frequently, the nests are built in the openings of protected cavities. Nests built in wall voids can emit a stench. Mature nests usually have 300-500 workers, but they sometimes can number up to 1,000. Colonies last for one year and only the queen survives the winter.
Nature toward humans: European Hornets are not typically aggressive unless handled, or the colony is threatened. Though the European Hornet prefers forested areas to urban settings, many suburban homes in the U.S. are located near these wooded habitats, which increases the likelihood of human contact.
Good news for those who have this species in their backyard: The new W*H*Y Trap for Wasps, Hornets & Yellowjackets will catch European Hornets!
And if you have encountered European Hornets, we want to hear from you -- either with a comment here on our blog, or by sharing your story on our web site.
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