European Hornets: The Historic Stinging Insect
The European hornet, also called giant hornet or the brown hornet, gets its common name from its introduction from Europe into the New York area in the 1800s. They are much larger than yellow jackets and, unlike most stinging insects, can be active at night. Their bodies are brown with yellow stripes on their abdomens and have pale faces. European hornets have long bodies and antennae and have two pairs of wings and six legs.
European hornets are social insects and live in colonies that may contain between 200-400 members at their peak. They usually appear in late summer and prey on a variety of large insects such as grasshoppers, flies, yellow jackets, and honeybees. They help control insects that would otherwise become pests without the local presence of European hornets. European hornets also eat tree sap, fruit and honeydew and can do a great deal of damage to trees and shrubs because they strip the bark to get to the sap. They also use the bark fiber to build their nests.
European hornets have smooth stingers, so they can sting over and over again. Their sting also carry venom that makes the stings hurt, itch, or swell for about 24 hours. A European hornet sting has the same risk of allergic reactions as with other insect stings.