Print Posted By Lost in France on 23 Sep 2006 in Wildlife - Wildlife and nature in France

Le Frelon - European Hornet

The FrelonThe European hornet or Frelon as they are known in France is largest of European wasps. Frelons measure around 2.5 cm in length with some females growing as much as 3.5cm long. The Frelon can be found in a band stretching across most of western Europe, the southern half of Britain and in parts of North America.

There are many myths surrounding the sting of a hornet, the most popular being that it takes "seven hornet stings to kill a horse, three to kill an adult human..." These myths simply are not true and combined with a general fear of anything wasp like have contributed to massive destruction of their nests which in many areas has resulted in the Frelon becoming an endangered species. In some parts of Europe they are now protected by law.

They are in fact very peaceful creatures and in reality are far less aggressive than most wasps and will not attack or sting you needlessly although they will become aggressive in defence if their nest is disturbed or if they feel threatened by sudden or rapid movements. Although painful the sting of the Frelon is no more potent than that of an ordinary wasp, less potent than a bee sting and is only dangerous to those that are sensitive or allergic to bee or wasp stings or if the victim is stung many times simultaneously.

Hornets nest Frelons construct their large honeycombed paper like nests annually from the pulp of chewed up foliage and wood. The nests can reach 60 - 100cm in length and about 50 cm in diameter, they are usually built in tree or post hollows, barns and sometimes attics.

These intricately constructed nests are started in the Spring by the queen Frelon and can house up to 700 worker hornets. They are made up of a series of cells in each of which the female lays an egg which hatches into a larvae after 5 -8 days before finally metamorphosing into adults in 2 -3 weeks. This first batch of eggs forms the workers whose task is then to forage, find food and carry on expanding the nest for the queen while she continues to lay her eggs.

During the early autumn mating takes place but sadly only the fertilised queen is destined to survive the winter, emerging again in the spring to start the whole process anew.


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