Photo Left:

Queen Hornet with first eggs / larvae in the center cells by her rear feet.

Hornet with initial nest in France

Photo Right:

Queen Hornet early in the year collecting insects to feed the first grubs.


Photo right: 

Large Hornets nest in a roof in France.

Photo right:

Giant House spider, Tegenaria duellica, capturing a Hornet in France.

Perhaps surprisingly they are food for a number of species that have learnt how to deal with their sting, the Bee eater grasps them by the body and bangs them on a branch, the giant house spider dances round them wrapping them up in its web and the house centipede plunges its venom fangs into them.

This is the largest European “wasp”, females can be up to 3.5 centimetres long and are often more boldly marked, males and workers are between 1.8 and 2.5 centimetres long. 

They are essentially a predator of a large variety of other insects, including bees and other wasps, later in the year they will eat ripe fruit, apples, pears, grapes, in fact anything with high sugar content. The larvae are feed by the adults with small regurgitated pellets made from captured insects.They do not pose a greater threat to Honey bee colonies than any other native social wasp and will only be a serious concern to a colony that is already weak or failing.  I have Hornet nests near my bees every year with no problems.


Many people “assume” that Hornets are dangerous and there are always people ready to tell you that they will attack without provocation, that 3 stings and your dead and other such tales that have no foundation what so ever their venom being no more dangerous than any other native social wasp. Left alone to go about their business they will take no interest in humans other than “looking” at you, this “looking “ will often involve flying around you moving backwards and forwards towards you in just the same way as they “look” at any other object, this is nothing to be concerned about. 

There are of course situations in which they, either singly or collectively, will attack and sting, this is (logically) when they feel that either they or their nest are under threat, so you should never flap your arms or anything else around at them or crash around by a nest. Of course if you sit or put your hand on one it’s likely to sting. 

To conclude, you are only really at risk if you are a person that reacts badly to stings or if you should receive multiple stings, which is the same as it would be with any other wasp or bee.

It is probable that the greater availability and use of modern insecticides is having an effect on overall population levels and where possible the nests should be left alone. In some European countries such as Germany and Austria they are a protected species.

Queen Hornet in France

Photo Left:

Hornet stealing a fly from a spiders web in France.

Frelons will “work” up to 1.5 kilometres from the nest and although a colony can have up to 300 individuals it is normally far fewer than this number. Their main period of activity is during daylight but night flying can take place and they are frequently attracted to lights. 

As is the case with all social wasps, (Vespidea), the entire colony disappears in late autumn or early winter, the males and workers die and only the fertilised females live through the winter in a sheltered place to form the new colonies the following spring.

Photo left:

Hornet captured by House centipede.

The initial nest, which is constructed using bark from trees mixed with saliva, is started by fertilised queens that have over wintered; this takes place from about the middle of April and she lays an egg in each cell as it is completed, after she has raised the first workers they continue with the process of enlarging the nest and feeding the larvae. The nests are normally constructed in hollows in trees, cavities in stone walls or something of a similar nature, bird nesting boxes are sometimes used; an old nest is never used twice although the same site may be used if the old nest is removed.


Photo right:

European Hornets collecting nest material from a Quince tree in France. Huge quantities are required to construct the large paper maché structures.