European Hornets are one of the only “real” hornets we have in the United States. They are large, intimidating and can sting. When nests are located close to your home the chance of conflict is heightened; when nests are located in the home the chance of conflict is inevitable. This article will detail some basic biology of this insect and then offer methods on how you can control local infestations.

In case this is not what you’re looking for, we also have in depth articles on:         CICADA KILLERS          DIGGER WASPS           MUD DAUBERS          WASPS        YELLOW JACKETS



European Hornets, like other European Species of insects, made their way over to North America on trade ships and other vessels. Once in the America’s most of these insects found a world where they could easily thrive. European Hornets were first noted in the early 1800’s, in the northeastern region of the United States. Now they can be found in most every state east of the Mississippi and most states out west as well.

European hornets look very much like Cicada Killers though they are more closely related to Yellow Jackets. European hornets are large – commonly found 1.5 to 2.0 inches long – and can fly quickly. It is hard to tell them apart from cicada killers and only a trained eye can do so easily. However, this is where the similarities end.

Unlike cicada killers which are solitary and prey mostly on cicada’s, European Hornets will prey on many types of insects, both alive and dead, and are attracted to most anything sweet or protein based.

European Hornets

European hornets will readily eat fruit and honeydew (tree and plant sap). This characteristic is why they are more like yellow jackets; furthermore, their nests are generally large and contain hundreds if not thousands of occupants just like yellow jackets.

Nests start in the spring when females lay eggs which hatch in a few weeks. This first generation goes to work immediately building a nest as the queen does nothing but lay eggs. By late July and August the nest will be built and most attention at that time will be spent accumulating food.

European Hornet Nest



Nests can be located anywhere. Common locations include tree nooks and hollows, under the siding of houses and in attics or crawl spaces. They typically like to find a space which will provide protection from the sun and rain. This space should be able to fit a football to medicine ball sized paper nest. Though the nest is constructed of this material which looks much like a paper wasp or bald faced hornet nest, European Hornets don’t like to have any of it exposed. They prefer the body of the nest to be hidden inside the void or cavity where they chose to construct it. For this reason nests will commonly be constructed inside the nook of a tree.



European Hornets will travel great distances for food. As their nest grows through the summer, so to do the occupants. Once eggs hatch, worker and scout hornets will forage for insect prey, carrion and sweet food like honeydew. Unlike most predatory wasps which are solitary, European Hornets will hunt in groups. They may identify a target insect they want which is bountiful and focus on it for a day or two harvesting as much of it as they can get.

Prey is brought back to the nest and either consumed or stored for developing young. To satisfy the need for sweet nutrients, they may target well ripened fruit or honeydew. Unlike yellow jackets or ants which can harvest honeydew from plants, European Hornets require big quantities and will go to great lengths to find a good supply. Like yellow jackets, they can “chew” through wood quite easily and will use this ability to strip bark from trees in an effort to harvest sap. This is called “girdling” and can kill targeted trees or shrubs.



European hornets become a problem around the home when their presence is noticed. If you see them on your property, there is either a nest close by or they are coming to feed on something local in the yard. So the first problem they present is the possibility of getting stung. The next problem they present is the damage they will do when they target fruit in the garden or tree. Lastly, if they target a tree to girdle, the tree can easily succumb to the loss of sap and die. For this reason its generally important to figure out why they’re foraging around your yard so you can take corrective action if needed.


There are many ways to control European Hornets. The key is using the right method based on why they’re a problem. Options include using a gel bait, a non-repellent spray, a non repellent aerosol, a contact killing spray and a contact killing aerosol.


Tree girdling is the damage done when hornets tear away the bark of a tree or shrub to gain access to sap and honeydew. This behavior may look innocent but eventually can lead to tree or shrub death. Since the sap seems to be sweeter in trees or bushes which produce lovely flowers, expect flowering plants to be a prime target.

Lilac and rose bushes are favorites and once they are tapped expect more hornets to focus in on the available sap. This can lead to plant damage – especially during the warm season – if the plant is already under stress. The cuts in bark or stems will cause the plant to “bleed” sap which the hornets will readily harvest. It is not uncommon to see several hornets landing at one time to feed.


EUROPEAN HORNETSIf you find girdling with active european hornets harvesting the honey dew, there is a HONEYDEW GEL BAIT that can be applied over the cut which will be readily accepted by the feeding hornets. Simply apply small amounts of the gel over the damaged areas leaking sap. It doesn’t take much; they will suck it up and bring it back to the nest.

In a few days the product will to work it’s way into the nest. This happens as the gel is digested and defecated. The initial gel is designed to protect the active but once the gel is digested, this protection is chemically broken down. And once defecated, the droppings will have exposed chemical which will in turn start to kill all members of the nest.

Maxforce Carpenter Ant Gel





If the hornets are damaging or feeding on a tree but are using it for a staging site, they’ll be active on all parts of the tree throughout the day. This can present a danger to people and pets and in general, should be treated using a non repellent spray like OPTIGARD. This active is mixed with water and can be sprayed on any surface without target insects knowing a chemical was applied. They’ll readily walk over the treatment and in turn, pick up the active and bring it back to their nest. The chemical will then be transferred to other members of the colony and after 2-4 days, the active will start work by killing every member which was exposed.

Optigard should be mixed at the rate of .5 oz per gallon of water and sprayed over an area no more than 500 sq/ft.






Most european hornets will send out scouts at night looking for food. These scouts will commonly be attracted to lights which means they might come around a deck or porch which has a light burning when its dark. In some cases they’ll be attracted to lights inside the home and when this happens, they might start flying into windows over and over making a lot of noise and in some cases, damage.

To stop this behavior, you can install a FLYING INSECT LIGHT TRAP. Unlike traditional “zappers”, this trap uses a spinning “fan” of wire that will cut up any pest which comes to close to the light.

To use this trap effectively, you’ll need to turn off all the outside lights where you have the most activity. Hang the Light Trap up at least 6 feet off the ground, plug it in and let it get to work. The trap includes a photo light sensor so it will only power on when its dark out.

European hornets targeting the light will fly up to it and get ripped apart instantly. The nest will probably send some more but after 1-2 weeks, they will stop. Use the light trap to control moths and other night time pests as its very effective and requires very little energy to run.







If the hornets are simply landing on the home using it as a staging area, the non repelling OPTIGARD. can be used to effectively stop this behavior. As explained above, this active doesn’t kill the target pests on contact or repel them. Instead, Optigard is transferred to the target pest and then “shared” with other members of their colony in the days following it’s contact with the treated surface. After 3-4 days of cross contaminating the members of the colony, the Optigard will eventually kick in and take effect.

Mix .5 oz per gallon of water per 500 sq/ft and within a week, all activity will stop and they’ll be gone.

Optigard Flex Liquid






If you have a hornet nest up under the siding of your home, use the non-repelling spray known as PHANTOM AEROSOL. Its best suited for small, specific areas and is ideally suited for treating their holes when you know where one is located.

Like Optigard, Phantom is non-repelling so the hornets won’t know its present. To safely treat, you’ll need to do the application at dark and you need to move quickly. The Phantom comes with a straw tube injector you’ll want to stick in the entrance hole. Let the aerosol “pump” into the next for 10-15 seconds and then quickly leave the area. Do this treatment nightly for at least 3 nights and by the 3rd or 4th night, the nest will start to die. By one week, it should be completely dead. The advantage of using Phantom over any standard wasp freeze or other traditional spray is that it won’t “spook” or chase the hornets deeper into the wall void which is the last thing you want to do. So for homes with hornet nests well hidden in wall voids, the Phantom is ideally suited for the job.







For nests which are easy to see and reach within 10 feet, a good treatment with HORNET FREEZE  should knock it down. This formulation is much stronger then any store bought type and will quickly kill them as they get hit. Use at least 1/2 can and let the treatment sit for 30 minutes to see if you got them all. In most cases, it will take the remainder of the can and many times a second can but as long as you can get the material directly into their nest, it will kill it quickly.

Hornet Killer




European Hornets are a big nuisance around some homes. If they are drawing sap from any of your trees or shrubs, use some of the Honeydew Gel to keep them away. Spray some Cypermethrin or set up some large Glueboards if they are landing around outside lights. Once inside the home, you will need to treat from the inside with someDforce Aerosol if you can; use the Drione Dust if you have to treat from the outside. Be sure to equip yourself with the proper safety equipment since these hornets pack a nasty sting and will get very aggressive once you start poking around their nests. If you have European Hornets on your property you have several options available for treatment. Once the problem is identified use the right treatment if you want to keep them away or kill their nests.


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Comments on EUROPEAN HORNET CONTROL Leave a Comment

March 31, 2012

Barry @ 10:49 am #

European hornets have eaten most of the apples on our tree for the last few years. No nest in sight. Is there a preventative spray that can be applied to the fruit before it ripens? Or would you recommend the honeydew bait?

This time of year “our pest of choice” is the large black and yellow boring bees. They are destroying the back side of the facia on the sunny side of the house. The peak is about 25 ft high and I’m no longer a climber. Is there a bait for these guys or what would you suggest? Thanks.

August 30, 2012

beekeeper @ 8:09 pm #

I am a honeybee bee keeper. I just recently discovered a very large yellow and red hornets nest about 40 yards from my bee hives. What should I do?

September 2, 2012

Steve @ 9:42 pm #

I have two lilac bushes and some rose bushes near my house which is surrounded by trees. I can’t seem to find the nest, but see countless numbers of European Hornets on the lilac and at night swarming the light outside my basement door. At one time I have seen up to an estimated thirty or so hornets at one time on the lilac. Tonight alone, I have killed five or six swarming the light outside my basement door.

Seeing as I cannot find the hive, would you suggest the Honeydew Gel on the lilac where I have seen the girdling, boards around my light, and the 112 volt trap set up near the lilac at night?

I have a small child and due to the sheer amount of hornets I can see on the lilac at one time, I’m a little concerned with my daughter playing in the yard at times, even supervised by my wife.

Are there any other suggestions you might have on how to irradiate or cut down the population in my area?

Thanks in advance.

September 3, 2012
October 1, 2012

Barb @ 10:23 am #

Help!! I have a ton of them and guess will have to get rid of my lilac bushes (they are all over them). I have dogs and can’t leave the outside light on too long or they show up. Its been 2 yrs now and can’t find the nest. Guess I need the heavy duty bug zapper!! Read that they fly for miles to find the light?? help~~

April 1, 2013

Rachel @ 1:34 pm #


I have European hornets and flying squirrels in the same tree. The hornets have a giant nest filled with larvae. I wanted to seal the hole in the tree with screen and trap the bees so they would die. I do not want to hurt the squirrels – there is a whole family of them. How can I keep the squirrels safe and kill the hornets?

April 21, 2013

Susan @ 5:24 am #


How do we locate their nests??

LaRee @ 11:00 pm #


I have them in my house every spring. It seems worse this year. We have looked everywhere for their nest but no luck. What would you suggest we use?

April 22, 2013
August 25, 2013

Kristin @ 10:17 am #


I believe we have European hornets living in the wood siding of our home. What I’m worried about is its an old building and when I spray they will go through and into our home…

June 10, 2014

Barry Hasson @ 2:44 pm #


I have killed three European hornets in my basement while working there in the evenings. Usually one per night. I figure there must be a nest somewhere, but I don’t know where it is. I am gonna look around tonight to see if I can find the source. What else should I do? Would an exterminator be able to locate the nest?

June 11, 2014
June 22, 2014

Julie Wells @ 12:29 am #


We live in the woods with no way of actually eradicating these wasps. Late in the summer they are a problem by getting in the house easily via the opening/closing of doors at night but now we have a baby/toddler and I’m worried of course. An exterminating company identified them as this type of hornet but did not find them in the house last year, thank goodness. My husband killed about 50 of them with his hands last summer but I don’t think I can deal with any getting in the house this summer. After reading up on them I now see where they are eating all the trees around our house. Saw one actually doing just that within minutes of looking around. Looks like a big problem here for a long time and they are already a problem in the daytime around our doors. There are too many trees with the right environment for them. How close can a nest be from the food source? Can I treat the area around our house as a control method? These things seem dumb and annoying but I don’t want my daughter getting stung.

July 28, 2014

Steve @ 11:06 pm #


I have read that it is risky to kill European hornets you see flying near your home or resting on a branch as it will release an alarm/attack pheromone that signals a nearby nest to swarm. Do you know if this is true ?

July 29, 2014
July 30, 2014

Steve @ 12:04 am #


@Tech Support: I forgot to include a “thank you” in advance when posting my original question. So thank you very much for your quick and helpful reply!

August 2, 2014

Marian @ 1:22 am #


We have what I think are European hornets circling an area in our yard where there used to be an ash tree. The tree was cut down and the stump ground out but the soil in that area and the grass tend to stay very dry by July/August. Lately, we have anywhere from two to a dozen hornets hanging around that area and a nearby flower bed with nepeta in full bloom. So far we have not found a nest. Will watering a lot in that area help keep them away? I am concerned that we or our neighbors may make the wrong move and get stung.

August 20, 2014

Mark and Emerald @ 6:33 pm #


My husband was stung this week in the head by a European Hornet. He was working around a big tree in our yard and one got him. He killed it and we kept it to find out what it was. After reading your website about their nesting in crooks of trees, we went back out to look at the tree and lo and behold we believe it to be the nest. It looks exactly like the picture shown above. Now this tree and others on our land secrete sap so we are unsure of the nest but there are many coming and going all hours of day from that crook/crack/crevice of that particular tree. Do you think we should treat the area assuming there is a nest? Or should we treat everything to be sure of killing these things?

August 22, 2014
August 23, 2014

Paul @ 11:48 am #


We have those European Hornets/Wasps flying around our front door. We have NO idea where they are nesting. They are increasing in numbers and the foam spray just kills whoever shows up in the evening. Is there a spray/bait/food I can place on the ledge below my transom window or around the light that will kill them off? Does it have to be wet? Can it dry and still be effective? Is it safe on vinyl siding? Thank you!

May 11, 2015

Ewelina @ 8:22 pm #


Hi there, which is better? Dominion or Optiguard? We have a few wild rose bushes and a very large lilac bush in the front of our house. We just started to see the European hornets last fall and they’re back nice and early this spring. They’ve never been ‘threatening’ to us but I’m worried about leaving my dog outside alone with them. We also have 2 cherry trees and 3 apple trees – they were also going after the fruit. Is either of the 2 products OK to use on fruit trees (food that will be consumed)? Since we don’t know where the nest is, which should we use? Thank you!!

September 8, 2016

Mike @ 12:23 pm #

Will the European Hornet nest be dormant during the winter or first frost?

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