Length 20-30 mm. Britain’s largest wasp, it is most distinctive with its brown and yellow colouration. The eyes are large and C-shaped, and they also have three simple eyes (ocelli) in the centre of their forehead between the main eyes.
Hornets are characterised as aggressive insects, and although due to their large size they can appear fearsome, they are less aggressive and less likely to sting than the average wasp. But their sting can be quite painful if they are provoked or especially if their nest is threatened. The nest is made from chewed wood and is paper-like, and are found in tree hollows, chimneys or wall cavities. Hornets are carnivores and predate on many garden pests, but they can also destroy honeybee hives.
Feeds on spiders, other social wasps, honey bees, flies, butterflies and moths, as does it forage by moonlight. It often takes them whilst they are feeding on flowers.
Seen spring and summer, and through into autumn until the frosts set in which kill them all off except the young queens which survive the winter hibernating in sheds or tree hollows. Found in woods, parks and gardens. Attracted to light. Quite uncommon, but widespread in the south and centre of England and most of Wales, scarce or absent elsewhere.
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Hymenoptera (Ants, Bees, Wasps & Sawflies)
Family Vespidae (Social Wasps)
Species Vespa crabro Linnaeus, 1758
Photos: Attracted to moth trap light, back garden, South Staffordshire 24th September 2017. © Peter Hillman