The European hornet, Vespo crabro, is a large eusocial wasp native to Europe, now found world-wide in a number of color morphs and sub-species. It was first reported in the United States in 1840 in New York and currently ranges throughout the Eastern US as far west as Dakotas. Technically, the European hornet is the only true hornet in North America. It belongs to the sub-family of wasps called the Vespinae, which includes yellowjackets (genera Vespula and Dolichovespula), hornets (genus Vespo), and a lesser-known genus, provespa. In the spring, European hornets build a large paper nest in a hollow tree or other sheltered cavity, usually two meters or more above the ground. By fall a nest may have up to 1000 workers, though more typical size is 300. Only overwintering queens survive to the next year to build the first cells of a new nest, in which they lay eggs. These hatch out as workers, which then forage for food to feed new larvae and expand and protect the nest. Like other hornets, Vespo crabro is carnivorous, eating small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars, and other wasps. European hornets are larger than yellow jackets, with drones about to 3.5 cm long. Despite their rather fearsome appearance, European hornets are rarely aggressive and will usually only attack if the colony is threatened. Vespo crabro has been much maligned and is now locally threatened or endangered in parts of Europe, because of destruction of its nests. Germany has protected this species by imposing the consequence of a large fine for killing a nest or wasp. In Australia, however, this invasive species has become a noxious pest, thriving especially in warm climates. (Arkive 2011; Jacobs 2010; Kosmeier 2010; Wikipedia 2011)
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