Stinging Commentary 2

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

September 14, 2011

In the previous post, I talked about the Bald-faced Hornet. I also mentioned the tendency of hornets to carve divots in fruit. Beware the divot. And whatever you do, don’t mistake the (relatively) well-mannered Bald-faced Hornet for the European Hornet (Vespa crabro).

European or Giant Hornet (Vespa crabro)

European or Giant Hornet (Vespa crabro)

The European Hornet is larger, and in my experience, far more aggressive. The sting is extremely painful—I have seen it reduce strong individuals to rocking back and forth and moaning out loud. It won’t kill you (unless you’re allergic, of course), but it takes about a half an hour before you wish it hadn’t.

European Hornets like to nest inside natural cavities—hollow trees, the spaces under your siding, etc. A nest may contain a “maximum of 800-1,000 workers.” Here’s a cheery bit of information from the folks at Penn State:

“Be certain NOT to plug the hornets’ entrance because they may chew through interior wall coverings in an attempt to escape and enter the living area.”[1]

A thousand giant hornets coming and going through my “living area,” unhappy thought indeed.

I wanted to get a photo of a hornet eating in the divot of a piece of fruit, so I went to the pear tree in my side yard. Found the divots, and found lots of hornets, as well as some little flies and yellowjackets. I found a likely looking divot and waited. I was soon rewarded by a nice fat hornet and a yellowjacket.

Hornet and yellowjacket feeding on pear

"The wolf and the lamb will feed together"...

Like other hornets and yellowjackets, European Hornets prey on other insects. However, I was fascinated by the fact that the two species fed side by side, peaceably.

Rookie mistake. While the yellowjacket was feeding eyeball to eyeball with one European Hornet, another landed behind him—and it was all over but the buzzing.

European hornet attacking yellowjacket

...but not today (European hornet attacking yellowjacket)

It’s tough out there.

Like many other bad things, the European Hornet—as the name implies—comes to us from Europe.[2] It originally landed in New York (in 1840) and has spread throughout New England, south to the Gulf Coast, and west to the Great Plains.[3]

I generally have a live and let live philosophy with nature, but I kill European Hornets on sight.


[1] Steve Jacobs, Sr. European Hornet (Penn State, College of Agricultural Sciences, Entomology, March 2000, revised January 2010), [accessed 9 Sep. 2011]. Jacobs recommends contacting a professional exterminator; so do I.

[2] My list would include slavery, measles, Marxism, and the metric system; from another perspective, it might include Europeans.

[3] Jacobs. European Hornet. Interesting to note that we seem to know the exact year and place. This is an insect that gets attention.

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