Hornet - Vespa crabro


Size 25 to 35 mm. The hornet is an impressive insect and is Britain's largest social wasp. Queens (reproductive females) are larger than the males and workers (non-reproductive females). The thorax area is brown and it has alternating bright orange-yellow and brownish-black stripes along the abdomen.

Similar Species

The only likely confusion is with a queen Median Wasp, but the Hornet is larger and has different thoracic pattern.

Identification difficulty

Woodlands, parks and gardens

When to see it

May to November.

Life History

It is rarely aggressive unless the colony is threatened. Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new nest. The queen begins to build the nest with chewed wood pulp, and a few eggs are laid in individual paper cells; these eggs develop into non-reproductive workers. When 5-10 workers have emerged, they take over the care of the nest, and the rest of queen's life is devoted solely to egg laying. The nest grows throughout the summer, reaching its peak size towards mid September. At this time the queen lays eggs that develop into males (drones) and new queens, she then dies shortly after. The new queens and males mate during a 'nuptial flight', after which the males die, and the newly mated queens seek out suitable places in which to hibernate; the old nest is never re-used.

UK Status

Fairly common in some parts of the south of England. It seems to be spreading northwards and has reached south Yorkshire.

VC55 Status

Common in Leicestershire and Rutland.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map