There are two distinct species of hornets that live in Georgia. One is the common Bald Face Hornet, the other is the European Hornet. Both are similar in nest building, (a grey paper nest) and both are semi-social insects, (their colony only lives one season).
Bald Face Hornet
The Bald Face Hornet really isn't a hornet, they actually belong to the wasp family. In fact they are aerial nesting yellow jackets. They are common throughout North America. They are very defensive of their nest and will defend it vigorously. Unlike honey bees Bald Face Hornets can sting multiple times.
Bald Face Hornets are known to chase their victims for quite a distance, stinging them repeatedly as they go. Depending on where the nest is located you could have some serious problems. Nests that are located high in the tree tops or well away from human traffic pose little threat to people. Nest located near human traffic, on houses, out buildings and similar areas can be hazardous.
European Hornets are true hornets. They are common throughout the Eastern part of the U.S., from Florida to Canada. They originated in Europe, (imagine that) and were first found in New York state around 1840. They are often referred to as "gentle giants" because of their gentle nature. BUT! Like wasps and Bald Face Hornets the European Hornet can and WILL defend their nest. Their stings are very painful, and it gives their victims a lesson to always be watchful of their nest.
European Hornets are semi-social insects and are not commonly found near urban areas. Unlike the Bald Face Hornet European Hornets rarely build their nest in the open. Their nesting sites can be found on the side of trees, around rocks, inside hollow trees/logs and in the walls of homes.
European Hornets are beneficial because they eat flies, spiders, and wasps. In Germany they are endangered, destroying a colony in that country carries a heavy fine. Here in the U.S. European Hornets are not protected, and have shown to be doing quite well. They pose little threat to humans, but like wasp and yellow jackets the location of their nest can be hazardous.
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