Hornets – The Facts
What do hornets look like?
Hornets are bigger than bees and wasps, measuring between 2 to 3 cm. They have clear orange wings and a brown and yellow striped torso.
How quickly do hornets multiply?
The hornet queen starts her nest by building up to fifty cells. An egg is laid in each cell and within 8 days the eggs develop into larvae, that in turn take up to 14 days to metamorphose into female workers. The queen then continues to lay eggs while the workers take over the building and safeguarding of the nest as well as the feeding of the larvae. At the peak of summer just one colony will hold as many as 700 hornets. As the summer ends, the queen gives birth to female queens and male hornets. During a ‘nuptial flight’ the queens are fertilised by the males who then die. Only fertilised queens will survive the winter in order to continue the cycle the following spring.
Where do hornets live?
Hornets live in a nest where they grow their colony. A nest is made up of many hexagonal cells that are constructed from tree bark that has been softened into a mush in the mouths of the female workers. The nest is covered in a paper-like shell made from the same material. Nests are built in sheltered spots such as in tree hollows, sheds and roofs.
What are the signs of a hornet infestation?
- Finding a nest. Hornets are loud buzzers and often you will hear the nest before you see it.
- Gardens with fruit trees and orchards are particular hornet haunts. Check fruit for holes as hornets burrow inside the fruit and eat it from the inside out.
- Unlike wasps, hornets are attracted to lights at night and will venture indoors.
Does a hornet infestation need controlling?
Unfortunately for us, a hornet boasts the most painful of all stings. They are best kept away from humans.
- Hornets are aggressive around food sources and their nest. Under threat, they will release an attack pheromone which signals their colony to attack.
- The pain of a hornet sting can last weeks due to its toxicity. In some rare cases a person will have an allergic reaction and go into anaphylactic shock needing urgent medical attention.
- Hornet nests drip a sticky vile smelling liquid. This is their faeces.
- Hornets love feeding on honey bees. Whole honey bee colonies can be decimated, meaning a decrease in local pollination.
- Hornets will strip branches of their bark, killing those branches and affecting the health of the tree.
- Lone hornets would rather not attack a human. If seen it is best to approach slowly, spurring the hornet to flee. Swatting and killing a hornet means that it will produce the pheromone that calls more hornets to battle. Should this pheromone attach itself to skin or clothing, you become a walking hornet magnet.