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What Are Hornets?

Hornets are a type of large, predatory wasp that are known for their painful stings and aggressive behavior. They are found in many parts of the world and are characterized by their large size and distinctive black and yellow coloring. Hornets are social insects and live in colonies, with a strict hierarchy governed by a queen. The workers, which are all female, build and defend the nest, forage for food, and care for the young. The drones, which are male, mate with the queen and do not participate in the daily tasks of the colony. Hornets are carnivorous and feed on other insects, including pest species such as flies and aphids. They are also attracted to sweet substances and are known to raid picnics and outdoor gatherings in search of food.

How Do Hornets Sting?

Hornets, including bald-faced hornets, have a stinger that they use to defend themselves and their colonies. The stinger is located at the end of the hornet's abdomen, and is used by the workers and queen.

When a hornet stings, it uses its stinger to inject venom into the target. The venom contains chemicals that cause pain and inflammation, as well as other substances that can lead to an allergic reaction in some people.

When a hornet stings, it's a defense mechanism as they feel threatened and need to defend their colony or themselves. They will only sting when they feel threatened or if they perceive a danger to the colony or themselves. So, if you come across a hornet nest, it's best to stay away and avoid disturbing them.

It's worth noting that the sting of hornets can be dangerous to some people, particularly those who are allergic to insect venom. People who are allergic to hornet venom may experience a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. If someone gets stung by a hornet and is experiencing symptoms such as difficulty breathing, hives, or swelling, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

It is also worth noting that hornets can sting multiple times, and once a hornet stings, it releases a pheromone that can attract other hornets to sting as well.

Symptoms Of A Hornet Sting

A hornet sting can cause a range of symptoms, including:

  • Pain and burning at the sting site
  • Redness and swelling around the sting
  • Itching and hives
  • A white or yellow spot at the center of the sting, which is the sting itself.

In some people, a hornet sting can cause a more severe reaction, including:

  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Swelling in other parts of the body, such as the face, throat, or tongue
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness

These symptoms are indicating an allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis which is a severe allergic reaction and requires emergency medical attention. If you experience any of these symptoms after being stung by a hornet, seek medical attention immediately.

It's also worth noting that some people may have a delayed allergic reaction to a hornet sting, so it's important to be aware of any symptoms that develop in the days following the sting.

Tips For Avoiding Hornet Stings

Here are a few tips for avoiding hornet stings:

  1. Avoid wearing bright colors or floral prints: Hornets are attracted to bright colors, so it's best to avoid wearing clothing that is brightly colored or has floral prints.
  2. Avoid wearing strong perfumes or scented lotions: Hornets can be attracted to strong scents, so it's best to avoid wearing perfumes or scented lotions when you're outside.
  3. Keep food and drinks covered: Hornets are attracted to sugary substances, so keep your food and drinks covered when you're outside to reduce the risk of hornets being attracted to you.
  4. Avoid sudden movements: Hornets can become agitated if they feel threatened, so it's important to avoid sudden movements if you're near a hornet or its nest.
  5. Stay calm: If you encounter a hornet, stay calm and move away slowly. Panicking or swatting at the hornet can cause it to become agitated and more likely to sting.
  6. Be aware of your surroundings: Keep an eye out for hornet nests, particularly when you're in wooded areas or near bodies of water.
  7. Use insect repellent: Using insect repellent can help to keep hornets away, so consider applying it to exposed skin before you go outside.
  8. Keep windows and doors closed: Keep windows and doors closed to prevent hornets from flying inside, specially during warmer months
  9. Call a professional: If you find a hornet nest on your property, it's best to call a professional exterminator to deal with it, as attempting to remove it yourself can be dangerous

By following these tips, you can reduce your risk of being stung by a hornet and enjoy the outdoors safely. However, even if you take all the necessary precautions, it's still possible to get stung. It's important to be aware of the symptoms of a hornet sting and seek medical attention if necessary.

How To Treat A Hornet Sting

The treatment for a hornet sting depends on the severity of the reaction. For most people, the following steps can help to reduce pain and inflammation:

  • Remove the stinger as soon as possible, if it is still in the skin. Scraping the stinger out with a flat object like a credit card or the back of a knife, rather than using tweezers can reduce the amount of venom that is injected into the skin.
  • Wash the sting site with soap and water to prevent infection.
  • Apply a cold compress, such as a bag of ice or a cold pack, to the sting site to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to help alleviate pain.
  • Apply a cream or lotion that contains an antihistamine to help reduce itching. Calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream can also be applied on the sting site to reduce itching.

For more severe reactions, such as anaphylaxis, prompt emergency medical treatment is necessary. A person experiencing an anaphylactic reaction should be taken to the emergency department immediately, where they will be given a shot of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline) and other treatment as necessary. If a person has a history of severe allergic reactions, it is important for them to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them at all times.

It's also worth noting that if a person is stung multiple times, they may experience systemic symptoms, such as fever, weakness, and muscle cramps. In this case, it's best to seek medical attention immediately. If you ever have any uncertainty or doubt, it is better to consult with a doctor or seek medical attention right away.

Types Of Hornets

There are two main types of hornets found in the United States, the European Hornet and the Bald Faced Hornet. A third type of hornet that has been found in the United States is the Asian Giant Hornet (aka the Murder Hornet), but it is not widespread and very limited in where it has been found. They are not well established, and as a newly invasive species with a lot of awareness, are responsible for a lot of unnecessary panic. Continue reading to learn more about the different types of hornets.

European Hornets

The European hornet (Vespa crabro) is the largest hornet species in Europe and was introduced to North America in the 19th century, where it is now found in much of the eastern and central United States. It has a reddish-brown head and thorax, yellow abdomen, and black wings, and can grow up to 3.5 cm (1.4 inches) in length.

European hornets are social insects and live in colonies, with a strict hierarchy governed by a queen. The workers, which are all female, build and defend the nest, forage for food, and care for the young. The drones, which are male, mate with the queen and do not participate in the daily tasks of the colony.

The nests of European hornets are typically found in hollow trees, wall cavities, or other sheltered places. The nests are made of a mixture of wood fibers and the queen's saliva and can reach up to the size of a basketball by the end of the season. European hornets are active from late spring to early fall and are most commonly seen foraging for food or building the nest.

European hornets are carnivorous and feed on other insects, including pest species such as flies and aphids. They are also attracted to sweet substances and are known to raid picnics and outdoor gatherings in search of food. They can sting multiple times and their venom is painful, although most people are not allergic to it. European hornets can be controlled by removing their nests or using insecticides, but they are important predators of pest insects and their populations should be balanced with this in mind.

Bald Faced Hornets

The bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculata) is a species of hornet native to North America. It is found throughout much of the United States, except for the desert Southwest. It gets its name from its white or light-colored face and is also known as the white-faced hornet.

Bald-faced hornets are large insects, with a body length of up to 3.5 cm (1.4 inches). They have a black head and thorax and a white and black striped abdomen. They are social insects and live in colonies, with a strict hierarchy governed by a queen. The workers, which are all female, build and defend the nest, forage for food, and care for the young. The drones, which are male, mate with the queen and do not participate in the daily tasks of the colony.

The nests of bald-faced hornets are typically found in trees, bushes, or other protected places, such as the eaves of a house or a shed. The nests are made of a mixture of wood fibers and the queen's saliva and can reach up to the size of a basketball by the end of the season. Bald-faced hornets are active from late spring to early fall and are most commonly seen foraging for food or building the nest.

Bald-faced hornets are carnivorous and feed on other insects, including pest species such as flies and aphids. They are also attracted to sweet substances and are known to raid picnics and outdoor gatherings in search of food. They can sting multiple times and their venom is painful, although most people are not allergic to it. Bald-faced hornets can be controlled by removing their nests or using insecticides, but they are important predators of pest insects and their populations should be balanced with this in mind.

Asian Giant Hornets

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the largest hornet species in the world, with a body length of up to 5.5 cm (2.2 inches). It is native to East and Southeast Asia and is known for its highly toxic venom and aggressive behavior. It has a dark brown head and thorax and a yellow and brown striped abdomen.

Asian giant hornets are social insects and live in colonies, with a strict hierarchy governed by a queen. The workers, which are all female, build and defend the nest, forage for food, and care for the young. The drones, which are male, mate with the queen and do not participate in the daily tasks of the colony.

The nests of Asian giant hornets are typically found in trees or other protected places, such as caves or rock crevices. The nests are made of a mixture of wood fibers and the queen's saliva and can reach up to the size of a small car by the end of the season. Asian giant hornets are active from late spring to early fall and are most commonly seen foraging for food or building the nest.

Asian giant hornets are carnivorous and feed on other insects, including pest species such as flies and aphids. They are also attracted to sweet substances and are known to raid picnics and outdoor gatherings in search of food. They can sting multiple times and their venom is highly toxic, causing severe pain and swelling. In rare cases, stings from Asian giant hornets can lead to serious complications, including anaphylactic shock and even death.

Asian giant hornets have recently been found in small numbers in the United States, but they are not yet established as a widespread species. They can be controlled by removing their nests or using insecticides, but they are important predators of pest insects and their populations should be balanced with this in mind.

The Hornet Life Cycle

The hornet life cycle consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.

Egg

The queen hornet begins the colony cycle by laying eggs in the spring. She selects a suitable nesting site, such as a hollow tree or wall cavity, and builds a small nest out of a mixture of wood fiber and her own saliva. She then lays eggs in the cells of the nest and provisions them with food, typically in the form of small insects.

Larva

After a few days, the eggs hatch into larvae, which are small, legless grubs. The queen feeds the larvae a mixture of partially digested insects and her own saliva, which provides them with the necessary nutrients for growth.

Pupa

As the larvae mature, they undergo a process called metamorphosis, in which they transform into pupae. During this stage, the pupae are encased in a cocoon and do not move or feed.

Adult

After a few weeks, the pupae emerge as adult hornets. The first adults to emerge are the workers, which are all female. They take over the tasks of the colony, such as nest building, foraging, and caring for the young, while the queen focuses on laying eggs and expanding the nest. Later in the season, the drones, which are male, emerge and mate with the queen. The colony begins to decline in the late summer and early fall as the queen stops laying eggs and the drones and workers die off. Only the mated queens survive the winter, hiding in leaf litter or other sheltered places until the following spring, when they start the cycle anew.

Hornet Nests

Hornet nests are the structures built by hornets to house and protect their colonies. The most common type of hornet in North America is the European hornet, which builds its nests in hollow trees, wall voids, or other protected areas. The nests are constructed from a mixture of chewed wood and saliva, and have a papery texture.

Hornets can be aggressive if their nest is disturbed, and their stings can be very painful. Therefore, it is best to leave hornet nests alone and call a professional if you need to have one removed. If you have a hornet nest near your home or workplace, it is important to keep windows and doors closed to prevent the hornets from entering.

It is important to note that hornet nests are valuable part of ecosystem and killing or destroying the colony will be great ecological loss. If the colony is not posing direct threat, it is recommended to leave them alone.

European hornet nests are typically shaped like an inverted teardrop and can grow to be quite large, sometimes reaching over two feet in length. The nest is composed of multiple layers of comb, which contain the hornets' eggs, larvae, and pupae. The outermost layer of the nest is made up of a protective envelope that helps to insulate the nest and keep it warm. Inside the nest, there is a hierarchy of hornets, with a queen at the top who is responsible for laying eggs. The workers, which are all female, are responsible for foraging for food, caring for the young, and defending the nest. Males are present as well, but their role is primarily to mate with the queen.

Bald-faced hornets build large, gray or brown paper nests that are usually found in trees, shrubs, or on the sides of buildings. The nests are composed of a paper-like material that the hornets make by chewing up wood fibers. The colony has a hierarchical structure, with a dominant queen that lays all of the eggs, and workers that take care of the eggs, tend to the young, and defend the nest. The colony is most active during the summer months, and the workers can become aggressive if they feel that their nest is threatened. They can sting multiple times and it will cause severe pain. They can also release a pheromone that can attract other hornets to sting as well.

If you find a hornet nest on your property, it is best to leave it alone and call a professional exterminator to deal with it, as attempting to remove it yourself can be dangerous. The exterminator can either remove the nest or use a pesticide to kill the hornets.

Where Can Hornets Be Found?

Hornets, including bald-faced hornets, are found throughout the world, in both urban and rural areas. They are commonly found in North America, Europe, and Asia.

In the wild, hornets are typically found in wooded areas, forests, and near bodies of water. They are attracted to areas with a lot of insects for hunting and also require water for their colony. They also found near orchards and gardens as they help in controlling the pest population.

In urban and suburban areas, hornets can be found near homes, buildings, and other structures. They may build nests in trees, shrubs, on the sides of buildings, or even in attic and eaves. They may also be found near outdoor eating areas, where they can find food and sugary substances.

Hornets typically build their nests in protected areas, such as in trees, shrubs, and on buildings, where they are less likely to be disturbed. They also prefer to build nests in a location that is near a water source, as they need water to build and maintain the nest.

It's worth noting that different species of hornets have different preferences for habitats and nesting sites, so the location and type of nest may vary depending on the species. Bald-faced hornets in particular, often build their nests in trees or shrubs, or on the sides of buildings or other structures. They may also build their nests in attics, eaves, or even underground.

Options For Removing Established Hornet Nests

If you find a hornet nest on your property, it's best to call a professional exterminator to deal with it, as attempting to remove it yourself can be dangerous and can lead to multiple stings. However, if you would like to know your options here are a few possibilities:

  1. Nest removal: A professional exterminator will typically remove the entire nest and destroy it to prevent the hornets from returning. This is the best option for nests that are located in an area that is easily accessible.
  2. Pesticides: A professional exterminator will use pesticides specifically designed to kill hornets. These pesticides are typically applied at night, when the hornets are less active, and can be sprayed directly into the nest.
  3. Biological Control: This method introduce natural predators of hornets such as parasitic wasps (which lays eggs inside hornet nests) that can be used to control hornet populations. This method can be used on smaller infestations.
  4. Relocation: In rare cases, a professional may be able to remove a nest and relocate it to a more suitable location, away from people and buildings. This method is not very common as it is often difficult to find a suitable location that is both far enough away from human activity but also not harmful to the hornets.

It is important to note that whatever method is used, it should be carried out by a professional with experience in handling hornets. They will have the proper equipment, knowledge, and protective gear to safely remove the nest without putting themselves or others at risk. Additionally, it is important to take into account the time of the year and what stage of the colony is in, some methods may not be appropriate in different stage of the colony's life.

How To Prevent Hornets From Building Nests On Your Property

There are several ways to prevent hornets, including bald-faced hornets, from building nests on your property:

  1. Keep food and trash sealed: Hornet are attracted to sweet and sugary substances, and may build nests near garbage cans or outdoor eating areas if they can find food there. Keep your trash in sealed containers and clean up any spills or crumbs as soon as they occur.
  2. Keep windows and doors closed: Hornets may fly into open windows or doors and build nests inside buildings, so it's important to keep windows and doors closed, especially during the warmer months when hornet activity is highest.
  3. Use yellow light bulbs: Hornets are attracted to light and may fly around porch lights and other exterior lights at night. Using yellow light bulbs can reduce the number of hornets that are attracted to your property.
  4. Eliminate standing water: Hornets need water to build their nests, so eliminate any standing water on your property, such as in bird baths, buckets, or old tires.
  5. Use hornet-repelling plants: Some plants, such as eucalyptus, citronella, and mint, give off scents that can repel hornets. Consider planting these in your garden or around your property to keep hornets away.
  6. Keep a safe distance: Hornet will defend their nest if they perceive a threat. So, if you see a hornet nest on your property, it's best to keep your distance and avoid disturbing it.
  7. Call a professional: If you find a hornet nest on your property, it's best to call a professional exterminator to deal with it, as attempting to remove it yourself can be dangerous. The exterminator can either remove the nest or use a pesticide to kill the hornets.

It's important to remember that hornets play an important role in the ecosystem and it's essential to strike a balance between controlling hornet populations to protect people and property and preserving their role in the ecosystem.

What Do Hornets Eat

Hornets, including bald-faced hornets, are predators that feed on a variety of insects, as well as sugary substances like nectar and fruit juice.

In the wild, hornets hunt for other insects like bees, flies, caterpillars, and beetles, which they will capture and bring back to the colony to feed to the larvae. The workers will also forage for nectar and fruit juice to feed to adult hornets and the queen.

In urban and suburban areas, hornets may also be attracted to sugary foods and beverages that people leave out, such as soda cans, fruit, and trash. They can become a nuisance when they are found around picnic areas and outdoor gatherings, and can sting people who get too close to their food or nests.

Also, hornets may scavenge on the other food sources such as pet food, meat and other protein rich food if they find in trash cans and garbage bins.

It is important to note that even though they do consume sugary substances and may be attracted to it, these substances should never be used as bait or attempt to lure hornets, as it can be dangerous to do so.

Hornets As Natural Pest Predators

Hornets, including bald-faced hornets, play an important role in the ecosystem by controlling populations of other insects. As predators, they help to keep populations of pests like flies, beetles, and caterpillars in check. This can be particularly beneficial for farmers and gardeners, as these insects can cause damage to crops and gardens.

Hornets are also important pollinators and aid in maintaining biodiversity. Hornets forage for nectar and pollen from flowers, which help them in producing honey and feeding the colony. In this way, they also aid in pollinating plants and flowers, which helps to maintain healthy ecosystems.

Hornets are also important in the food chain as prey for birds and other animals.

While hornets can be a nuisance when they build nests near homes or in areas where people gather, they play important ecological roles in the environment. It is important to strike a balance between controlling hornet populations to protect people and property and preserving their role in the ecosystem.

It is always best to call a professional exterminator for removing hornets nests, as attempting to remove them yourself could be dangerous, and in the process it is important to consider the long term ecological impact of hornet populations.

Hornet Control Services

Miche Pest Control is a family owned and operated, full service pest control company that provides residential and commercial pest control services for pests, including hornets, in Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. Our expert hornet exterminators get rid of hornets fast, and use preventative methods to help keep hornets from coming back after they've been eliminated. Miche Pest Control has a 4.9 star rating and over 1,000 reviews online - click on the button below to get started, or give us a call today!

What are hornets?

Hornets are valuable predators that help to control the populations of soft-bodied insects that live all around us. Flies, centipedes, and crickets are examples of insects that hornets feed on; they also feed on spiders.

Though hornets have their place in nature, they don't have a place in our yard. They are stinging insects and capable of delivering painful stings to people. 

Hornets are social insects identified by their hairless bodies and defined waists. Depending on the species, they may be a combination of black, white, yellow, orange, and brown colors. Though similar in shape to wasps, hornets tend to be larger and more robust.

Three of the most common species of hornets living in our area are:

  • Asian giant hornet (murder hornet)
  • Baldfaced hornet
  • European Hornet

Are hornets dangerous?

While hornets won’t hesitate to defend their nest, they aren’t as aggressive as some other stinging insect species like yellow jackets. However, like other stinging insects, the venom that hornets inject with their stingers is strong enough to trigger allergic reactions in people. Those severely allergic could experience anaphylactic shock. In addition, wasps and hornets have a smooth stinger that allows them to sting their victims repeatedly, injecting more venom with every sting.

Why do I have a hornet problem?

Hornets are on your property either because they have built a nest on it or because they have discovered reliable food sources.  If you only see a few hornets here or there, they are likely only visiting from a neighboring property. However, if you see lots of hornets flying around your yard, eating areas, or gardens, there is likely a nest present on your property that you must remove.

Where will I find hornets?

Yards near wooded areas, meadows, and parks with a lot of flowering vegetation and trees are attractive to hornets because they are places their insect prey like to hang out. 

Hornets typically build their nests up off the ground. Some favorite nesting sites that our yards provide include:

  • Tree branches
  • Tree-like shrubs
  • Utility Poles
  • Under roof hangs
  • Under decking
  • Under playhouses or outdoor furniture
  • Attic spaces

How do I get rid of hornets?

If hornets have become a problem in your home or on your property, it is best to seek the help of a pest control professional. Don’t try to remove these stinging pests on your own; partner with the licensed experts here at Miche Pest Control, and get peace of mind knowing we will resolve your hornet problem quickly and without the risk of you being stung. 

Our friendly, highly trained professionals use effective and modern pest control methods and products to control hornets and other common household pests living in and around your home or business. 

To learn more about the exceptional hornet control services we provide throughout our service areas in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., contact Miche Pest Control today!

How can I prevent hornets in the future?

Preventing problems with hornets is difficult, but we want to help you guard your property against hornets by offering these helpful prevention tips:

  • Remove things like woodpiles, fallen trees, and tree stumps from your yard where hornets can nest.
  • Cut tree limbs and overgrown shrubs back from your home’s exterior.
  • Keep lids on outdoor trash cans to prevent attracting the insects that hornets feed on.
  • Remove areas of standing water from your property that provide a source of water for hornets and attract insect activity.
  • Make sure screens in windows and doors are secure and free of rips to help keep hornets out of your home.
  • Regularly inspect roof eaves, deck rails, and under outdoor furniture for hornet nests; if you discover one, immediately contact us for help.

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