Learn about Utah Hornets
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The hornet is a giant eusocial wasp, with some species growing to over 4.5 cm in length. The hornet has a black head with an orange or yellow face. Adult workers are densely covered in short hairs, which gives them a “furry” appearance; different species may be brown, grey, or black. Hornets build their nests in trees and shrubs but occasionally use artificial structures for nesting purposes.
The European hornet is the most common, typically reaching 1 to 1¼ inches with a wingspan of 1½ to 2 inches. The bald-faced hornet (also known as a white-faced hornet) is black with white markings on its face and abdomen. It’s brown with yellow stripes and is often mistaken for a Yellow Jacket.
Unlike Yellow Jackets, Hornets don’t scavenge for food or fly very close to the ground. So they aren’t typically found hanging around dumpsters or garbage cans like yellow jackets. However, if you see Hornets near your home or yard, it’s still best to avoid them, even though they are not naturally aggressive toward humans.
Hornets are social insects that live in colonies, with the queen being the only fertile female and the other females, or workers, being sterile. The male hornets mate with the queen in late summer and then die. The queen emerges in spring, feeds on honeydew and tree sap, and creates a new nest. They hibernate over winter in individual cells built by the workers on tree trunks or buildings.
Nests are usually built in trees or bushes but can also be found under eaves, hollow trees, attics, and lofts or wall cavities. The nest is made from chewed-up wood pulp mixed with saliva, forming a papery grey material shaped into hexagonal cells. There are just a few cells in early nests, but as more and more young hatch out, the number of cells increases until they reach up to 300 cells by autumn.
Hornets are an essential part of the food chain. They keep pesky insects under control, and their carnivorous natures help keep the populations of other animals in check. Hornet larvae are carnivorous, feeding primarily on other insects. Adult Hornets feed on nectar from flowers or small insects such as flies, caterpillars, and grasshoppers.
Hornet Life Cycle & Reproduction
Hornet colonies begin each spring anew when the queen emerges from her winter hiding place. She finds a protected cavity, such as a hollow tree, and builds a small nest. The first brood is laid inside this structure and tended by the queen alone. These future workers expand the colony and will make it more complex.
As the colony grows, new queens are produced through budding. The hive can be divided into multiple territories, each having its queen. Thousands of workers can protect her and tend to the young by midsummer.
Hornets are one of the most feared pests worldwide because they can inflict painful stings on people and animals. Hornets will attack if they feel threatened, but they will also attack if you disturb their nest. Hornets are not naturally aggressive towards people but can get wild if you get too close to them when feeding on food sources they consider to be theirs. Click here to learn about Hornet Removal.