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Life Cycle of the Hornet

European Hornet (Vespa Crabro)

The Hornet (Vespa Crabro) is a wasp; part of the Hymenoptera Order. It is much bigger than Common Wasps or German Wasps but the life-cycle of the hornet is very similar.

Lifecycle of the hornet

Are Hornets more aggressive than wasps?

Often people fear the Hornet even more than they do wasps. This is largely due to their size. They are often branded as being much more aggressive than other wasp species but in our experience this is untrue. We are not suggesting that they will not defend their nest in an aggressive manner because they will.

The European Hornet

European Hornet Life Cycle

As with other types of wasps, the Queen Hornets that have hibernated through the winter become active in the spring as the temperature starts to warm up.

They search for a place to start building a nest, such as a loft or shed. Once a suitable place has been chosen (usually somewhere warm, dry and undisturbed), the queen will start to strip wood from fence panels, windows, sheds and other available wood sources. They chew the wood and mix it with saliva to form a lightweight, strong and waterproof material similar to paper mache.

The nest starts off with a centre stalk called a petiole which is securely attached to something strong, such as a rafter. The queen then adds cells around this centre stalk these cells are formed into combs which are similar to those in a Bee Hive.

Start of a hornet nest in spring

Small hornet nest

Once the initial cells are constructed, the queen will begin to lay eggs into the cells. Whilst these eggs are incubating, the queen continues to build the nest and new cells. It takes between 5-8 days (depending upon ambient temperature) before the first eggs hatch into hornet larvae.

What are Hornet grubs fed on?

Once hatched, the queen will feed the larvae on a diet of chewed up insects which is high in protein. After around two weeks the larvae are ready to pupate, they spin a silk cap over the top of the cell and undergo transformation into adult hornets. These adults are sterile female workers.

Once the first brood of adults has hatched, they take over the duties of nest building and collecting food for new larvae. The queen then concentrates on egg laying only.

How do Hornets breed?

When the nest has reached its maximum size in the autumn the worker hornets build special cells in the nest, these are reserved for new queen larvae and male larvae.

European Hornet nest in loft

Hornet Nest

Once these new queens and have hatched and pupated into fully formed Queen Hornets, they leave the nest and fly off to search for Male Drones from other nests to mate with.

Once mated, these new queens will search out a suitable place to hibernate over the winter. The whole cycle starts again in the spring, where each of these new queens will start a new nest.

When do Hornet nests die?

After the new Queen hornets have left the nest no other eggs are laid by the original queen. The nest starts to die off as the weather gets colder and the frosts arrive. Some nests survive longer than others if they are located in warm loft spaces but usually by Christmas the nests are dead. All the worker hornets and male drones along with the original queen will have died.

Hornet nests are usually bigger in size than a wasp nest, but the amount of individuals contained within the nest is much smaller than a wasp nest typically between 200-400 Hornets per nest.