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News Eagle - Hawley, PA
  • European hornet is abundant

  • In the summer, insects are one of the downsides and while they don't completely go away come fall, there is one particular insect that outnumbers them.
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  • In the summer, insects are one of the downsides and while they don't completely go away come fall, there is one particular insect that outnumbers them.
    The Vespa crabro, known as the European hornet, is very abundant this time of year.
    Residents from Tyler Hill reported seeing a lot of them around their home, stating that the hornets "were about 1 ¼ inches long."
    They contacted the Penn State Extension office and were then told how to take care of the problem by their property.
    "This is the time of year the European hornet reaches its peak abundance," said Greg Hoover, an ornamental extension entomologist from the Penn State Department of Entomology, University Park.
    They are more likely to be seen between August and October when they mate and start preparing the females to become the next queens. The overwintering queens can survive in "protected sites such as under loose bark, in tree cavities and in wall voids of buildings."
    "The queen becomes active in mid to late May," he said. "After a few hard frosts, most workers are killed during winter and the only survivor is the queen. As long as the queen is alive the species will continue on."
    Hoover explained that these stinging insects "fertilize the queen" in those types of areas for protection. More eggs will be laid and more workers will be created and the cycle continues.
    Their nests are usually "about six feet" above ground, according to a fact sheet about the European hornet from Penn State. It also said that an "adult worker" is usually about 25 mm in length and that the overwintering queens can be 35 mm.
    "I like to describe them as being the color of maple syrup with markings," Hoover said.
    He said that when it comes to making their nests, the European hornets will chew on bark "and girdle" it.
    "They'll chew lilac, birch and other trees," Hoover stated. "They'll even chew rhododendron. The bark is then mixed with saliva and that's how they make their papery nest. People will notice what's called flagging on branches and leaves, where they will wilt and turn brown."
    He added that they may be spotted "between 150 and 300 feet" away from where they are girdling.
    While the European hornet will sting, Hoover said he is "always amazed" when a living one is brought in because they "don't like anything close to their home."
    "Most of the samples we get are usually in alcohol to preserve them," he said.
    Hoover also said that when these hornets are eating food items, like prematurely dropped fruit such as apples, pears and even peaches, they "aren't in a more aggressive mood."
    Page 2 of 2 - "They feed on the flesh of the fruit," he said.
    The European hornets are "not a danger" to animals, but for people it can pose a problem if they are allergic to venom.
    "When they are spotted where children frequent, especially if they are allergic, the guardian gets concerned," Hoover said.
    He said there are kits available to help, especially if someone is allergic.
    The European hornet is the "largest hornet" found in the United States. Hoover said their size alone makes them easily spotted.
    "They're mostly found on the Atlantic coast," he said. "They're seen from Massachusetts to Georgia and are also found in Ohio."
    The Penn State fact sheet added that the European hornet can be seen as far west as the Dakotas.
    Hoover said that if people find a nest in a building that they need to get into, that they should "contact a reputable pest control business," especially for areas where "children and pets come in close contact."
    "There are materials used that only a certified applicant can purchase," he said. "I wouldn't lend it to a homeowner to take care of it themselves."
    He said that with insects like yellow jackets, people believe if they find the entrance to a nest and can clog it, that it will "destroy the colony or decrease the amount of traffic."
    Instead, Hover stated, yellow jackets "have been documented" chewing through dry wall and then "coming into the house."
    "I'm not sure what the European hornet does, but I'm sure they could also do that," he said.
    Hoover said that the European hornet has been "one of the highest profile" insect submissions in the last few weeks.
    "I've seen a lot of European hornets in the last couple years, but I don't think there's a correlation to more being brought in," he said. "I'm not sure if it's curiosity or the unfamiliarity of it, but the majority of people love the outdoors and are seeing them."
    Hoover added that the number in a colony depends on what time of year it is. He stated that snow and the severity of winter are also major influences to the "success or lack thereof."
    "They're one of the success stories," he said. "They've overcome a lot."
    He said there are between "10 million and 30 million" species of insects on the planet that have "yet to be described."
    "It's critical to protect these unique areas like the tropics because we are still trying to understand everything that's out there," Hoover stated.
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