Hornets are part of the wasp family, known as a 'social wasp.' Although much larger than wasps, they are a pollinator, so they should mostly be left alone and even encouraged if possible.
These large insects have a fearsome reputation, but they are actually less aggressive than wasps if you don't threaten them. However, sometimes the location of their nests makes this problematic.
And importantly, hornets follow a similar annual lifecycle to wasps and are active in the warmer months, hibernating during the winter. Let's learn a bit more.
What Time of Year Do Hornets Come Out?
Hornets emerge in the spring following winter hibernation. The exact time depends on the weather. A cold or late spring delays their emergence from hibernation, and a long, mild autumn can extend their activity, too.
What Months Are Hornets Most Active in the UK?
Hornet Activity By Season
Queen hornets emerge from hibernation and start to build their nests. Hollow cavities inside trees or cavities in a building are a favourite location for these insects. They make the nests by chewing up wood, similar to wasps.
Queen hornets lay eggs, developing into sterile female workers who carry on building the nest. As the young emerge, the sterile workers catch small invertebrates to feed them. Make note: this is when you're likely to see the most activity.
Later on in the summer, the males and fertile females hatch. At the end of the summer, reproductive males and queens leave the nest and mate.
The old Queen, males, and workers die off in the autumn, leaving just females preparing for their hibernation.
In the winter, the newly-mated queens hibernate to become next year's queens.
Dealing With Hornets Throughout the Year
Hornets travel quite a long way from the nest to look for food, so if you see a lone hornet, their nest may be quite some distance away and hard to locate.
Hornets also hunt around the clock, so you may not see many during daylight hours.
Visiting hornets are not aggressive unless you threaten them. However, if you find a nest in a location that is impossible to ignore, such as within a building or tree cavity with regular passing human traffic, there may be no option other than to destroy it.
Finding and destroying a nest early will encourage the Queen to seek alternative accommodation in a less controversial place!
In the last decade, there's been a new visiting hornet in the UK, the Asian Hornet. The Asian hornet is smaller than the native species, with an orange face, dark abdomens, and yellow-tipped legs.
Asian hornets eat bees and are a threat to an already struggling bee population in the UK, so sightings of this hornet are worth reporting.
Identifying the nest's location and having it professionally destroyed is essential to stop the Asian hornet from gaining a foothold on your property and bee population.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Hornets Active at Night?
Unlike bees and wasps, hornets hunt during the day and night to provide food for the Queen and the emerging young.
These insects are nocturnal. If you leave a light on in your house at night and hear them tapping on the window, there's a strong likelihood that you have a nest nearby.
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Hornets can be a nuisance, especially during a hot summer if you like leaving your windows open at night.
If you want to stay insect-free during the warmer months, shop Dalton Engineering for products that keep you free of wasps and hornets.