Belongs to: bees and wasps

Compare with: common wasp

Hornet Vespa crabro

Also known as: european hornet


Best time to see: mid Apr to end Oct

Key facts

Britain's largest wasp species, queens averaging 3cm in length

Less agressive than wasps and, because they feed their young on insects and grubs, useful as pest controllers

Once found only in southern England, in recent decades has extended its range as far north as Yorkshire

Recognition

Thorax and legs reddish-brown and black, with yellow only on head and abdomen

Feed on large insects such as other wasps, bees and moths, and on sap leaking from damaged trees

Like other wasp species, build their nest out of paper made from wood scrapings

Lifecycle

Young queens hibernate over winter, emerging in April to start building a nest, usually in hollow trees or outbuildings

She raises workers (sterile females) to help build up the nest, and in summer they raise new queens and fertile males

These emerge in September/October and mate; the nest dies out in autumn and only the new queens survive

  • Main photo
  • nest

Photo © Tony Gunton

Photo © Tony Gunton