Carl Rustung

Fun facts about the European hornet

Had several visits from European hornets this summer. Since knowing stuff about scary things tend to make them less so, here are a few fun facts about Vespa crabro:

  • Largest wasp in Europe (length varies from 18mm to 35mm). Not as aggressive as our regular wasps (Norwegian wasps, German wasps, and yellowjackets), but the sting is said to be more painful. Cruising speed of 20–24 km/h (≈ 12–15 mph), faster when it’s hunting.
  • Was observed in Norway in 2007 for the first time since 1911, huzzah!
  • Europeans are the biggest threat to the European hornets, destroying their nests because they’re scary and chopping down their habitats for fun and profit. The hornets have enjoyed legal protection in Germany since 1987, where swatting (and killing) a European hornet can net you a fine of up to €50,000.
  • Laughs at spiders and their webs, even steals their prey (phenomenon known as kleptoparasitism).
  • The common hedgehog is immune to the poison and will gladly raid a hornet nest, though they’re usually built in places hedgehogs can’t reach.
  • Insect-eating birds leave the European hornets alone, except the European bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) who remove stingers and squeeze out the venom before they eat. Clever birds!
  • We don’t have bee-eaters in Norway.