University of Maryland Extension

European Hornets

Back to Common Problems - Trees and Shrubs

European hornet.  Photo credit - EPA

European hornets are large, about 3/4 to 1 3/8 inches long. They are brown, with yellow stripes on their abdomen and a light colored face. Paper nests are typically built in hollow trees, barns, out buildings, hollow walls of houses, attics, and abandoned bee hives. Unprotected nests are covered with a brown envelope. The European hornet is the only true hornet in the United States. Its food consists of a large variety of insects. Workers will also girdle twigs and branches of trees and shrubs (especially lilac) to feed on sap. Branch dieback can occur when twig girdling is extensive. European hornets fly at night and are attracted to lights. It is relatively non-aggressive near its nest.

European hornet damageIf the nest is located in or near a structure and control is necessary precaution should be taken. A professional pest control company may be needed because nests may be quite large and the hornets fly at night. It is advisable to treat during the day with an insecticide labeled for this purpose and protective equipment such as a bee veil should be worn.


european hornet damage on branch 
European hornet damage on holly branch

Maintained by the IET Department of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. © 2019. Web Accessibility