Hornet ©Erik Jørgensen


Scientific name: Vespa crabro
The fearsome-looking hornet may not be a well-loved insect, but it is actually much less aggressive than the common wasp. It is also an important pollinator and a predator of species that feed on plants and crops, so can be a gardener's friend.

Species information


Length: up to 3.5cm

Conservation status


When to see

May to November


A very large relative of the common wasp, the hornet lives mostly in woodland, parkland and gardens. Queen hornets emerge from hibernation in spring and start to build their nests by chewing up wood - these 'paper' nests are often made in hollow trees, or in cavities in buildings. Inside the nest, sterile workers hatch and look after the new young produced by the queen. At the end of summer, reproductive males and queens develop and leave the nest to mate. The males and previous queen die, and the new females hibernate, ready to emerge next spring and start the cycle again. Hornets catch a wide variety of invertebrates, mainly to feed to their larvae; they feed themselves on high-energy substances like nectar and sap.

How to identify

The hornet is a large social wasp that has a brown thorax and brown and yellow stripes on its body, rather than black and yellow. It has an obvious 'waist' between the thorax and abdomen. The similar-looking Asian hornet has recently arrived in the UK, but has a mainly brown abdomen except for one yellow segment. It is smaller than our native hornet.


Widespread in south and central UK, and expanding northwards.

Did you know?

Although their size is frightening for many, hornets are not as aggressive as common wasps and are unlikely to sting if they are left alone.