European Hornet

Actual Size: 1 – 1 1/2 ”

Characteristics: Large, brownish colored with dull orange stripes and pale face.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Nest in followed out trees, barns, hollow walls in buildings, attics, and even abandoned beehives.


  • Can live in colonies between 200 and 400 members
  • Unlike most stinging insects, these hornets are active at night
  • Prey upon grasshoppers, flies, and other insects

European Hornets in Vermont

The European hornet, also known as the brown or giant hornet, is known as the only “true” hornet in the nation. This hornet gets its common name from being introduced to the eastern United States from Europe in the mid 1800s. These hornets are found in 30 states and many fear them for their large size. European hornets are much larger than yellowjackets, and unlike most stinging insects, can be active at night. Adults, possibly seeking prey, come to lights in the evening and can be a source of great concern for homeowners here in Vermont. Because they are so active at night, many people notice them on their porches and more, which is how they occasionally make their way indoors.

European Hornet Nests & Hives

European hornets are social wasps that normally build their nests in hollow trees, but will also utilize wall voids and attics of houses. Their nests will rarely appear freely suspended like the football-shaped bald-faced hornet nests. European hornet nests are generally located 6 feet or more above ground, and will occasionally be constructed on the sides of homes. In some instances, a portion of the gray, papery nest extends outside the cavity or void. An average hornet nest will have 200 to 400 workers by late summer and they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. For this reason, it’s especially important to avoid nests at all costs even if they appear vacant.

European Hornet Behavior & Threats

Although large and fierce looking, European hornets will not sting unless threatened and tend to leave people alone. However, this hornet is capable of stinging multiple times, and those that may be allergic to their venom should seek medical attention when stung. European hornets can cause issues for homeowners by nesting in barns, hollow trees in yards, wall voids or attics. When food becomes scarce in late summer, they look for sugary foods and may destroy fruit trees. These hornets are attracted to porch lights at night and will sometimes bang up against windows, which can be distressing.

If you notice a nest forming or European hornet activity near your property, it’s important to contact a hornet removal expert near you.