Of all the wasps and bees in the state, hornets are among the most likely to cause stings in defense of their nest. These flying insects aren’t native to North America, and only one species is currently found in central Indiana. However, this single species is a giant among wasps. European hornets are among the largest flying, stinging insects on the continent and are known for tapping on windows at night as they search for light. If you hear a gentle tapping and notice a few black and yellow stripes, you may be about to meet your first true hornet.
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5 Facts About Hornets
- Hornets are a type of wasp that live in papery nests. The hive can be located in treetops or other high places, or the wasps might build their nest inside wall voids, hollow trees or in an abandoned underground burrow. Underground hives are dangerous when the hive is located in a pathway, but hives that are built away from human activity are generally beneficial for the environment and should be left alone.
- Hornets only live for one season. During the spring and summer months, the workers collect food for the queen. After the season is over, the hive dies out and only the newly born queen bees survive. These new queens live under tree bark, or in other hidden areas, through the winter and begin a new hive the following spring.
- Like bees, hornets have workers that collect food for the hive. The insects are omnivorous and are often found near fruit trees, as the workers often feed on the fallen fruits. Hornets also eat bees and other protein foods, and the larvae, or eggs, produce a sugary substance that contains amino acids for the worker hornets to eat. This sugary food not only provides the workers with energy, it also encourages the workers to keep hunting so they can feed the larvae.
- Hornets are known for their aggression, but most of these flying insects do not sting humans unless the hive is threatened. Generally, hives that are located in undisturbed areas do not pose a threat to humans, and hornets offer the benefit of eating pests that destroy garden crops. When the hive is threatened, however, hornets pose a serious threat to humans and animals. Hives located inside walls, near outdoor living spaces or near other human activity should be removed to reduce the risk of multiple stings from the insects.
- Hornets aren’t native to North America. European hornets were introduced in the mid-1800s. As one of the largest stinging wasps on the continent, European hornets can reach up to 2 inches in length and have a classic pattern of yellow and black stripes that are similar to the stripes on a yellow jacket. Large hives of European hornets can have up to 1,000 workers.The insects are attracted to light and may tap on lighted windows during the evening hours in an attempt to reach indoor lights.
What Types of Hornets are Found in Central Indiana?
European hornets are found throughout the state. These nocturnal insects aren’t usually aggressive unless the nest is threatened. The large insect measures up to 2 inches long and has distinctive brown and yellow stripes on its body. The hornet’s nest is usually located at least 6 feet above ground level and has a distinctive football shape. Trees and the eaves of the home are favorite spots for the nest, but the hornet’s nest is sometimes found in wall voids.
Bald-faced hornets are also found in the state, but bald-faced hornets are wasps instead of true hornets. Bald-faced hornets have black and white stripes on their body and build their nests in trees, wall voids, and hollow trees. The bald-faced hornet has a smooth stinger and aggressively defends its nest when threatened. Other stinging insects in the state include yellow jackets, paper wasps, and honeybees. While there is only one true hornet in the state, exercise caution anytime stinging insects build their nest near areas where the colony may be disturbed because the insects often act quickly and aggressively to defend the nest.
What Are the Health Risks of Hornets to Your Family and Pets?
Hornets pose a serious threat when the nest or hive is disturbed. The insects have smooth stingers that allow them to sting people or animals many times, and large European hornets can have fatal stings when a person or pet is aggressively attacked. While most hives should be left alone, when the nest is found near homes, lawns or gardens, removal may be necessary to prevent stings.
It is a good idea to carefully identify the pest before removing or treating a hive with pesticides. Some harmless insects, such as the cicada killer, are often misidentified as hornets. Contacting a professional pest control company for identification is recommended because hornets are very aggressive when humans or animals approach the hive. Hornets can also cause an allergic reaction in some people.
An allergic reaction can be life-threatening without quick treatment. Signs of an allergy to the sting include swelling of the face or throat, difficulty breathing, dizziness and rapid pulse. Get immediate medical attention if you suspect an allergic reaction is occurring after a sting.
What Kind of Damage Can Hornets Do To Your Property and Home?
Generally, hornet’s nests that are located in treetops don’t cause damage to the property. When the nest is located inside a wall cavity, damage to insulation may occur. Often, the hornets enter the wall cavity through an existing hole in the home’s exterior, and use the same hole to enter and leave the hive. When located in a shed or another indoor location, the damage is also minimal, although you may not wish to enter the building or space until the hornet treatment is finished.
When located outdoors, away from areas where humans and pets spend time, hornets usually do not cause any damage. Some experts recommend leaving these out-of-the-way hives alone because hornets are beneficial insects. However, there are some instances when you may want to remove even the most isolated hives. For instance, if you or someone in your home is allergic to wasps or hornets, hornet treatment is recommended to prevent accidental stings that occur when the insects are searching for food on the property.