Wasps at Porch Lights

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Picture of a European hornet next to a picture of several at a porch light

A European hornet worker (left) and a porch light attracting several of these wasps (right)

In recent weeks we’ve been getting a lot of messages regarding large wasps coming to porch lights. In all of those cases, they were European hornets (Vespa crabro), but many were suspected to be Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia, AKA “murder hornets”). The Asian giant hornet is not present in NC and we do not expect it to be any time soon, if at all. See this comparison page for more information on the differences between Asian giant hornets and similar looking local insects.

Hornets are social wasps that build large paper-like nests in cavities of trees, and sometimes, in or around human structures. Hornet activity begins in the spring with small colonies that get larger as the year goes on. At this time of year, hornet colonies are beginning to get very large (hundreds of individuals) and, consequently, there are more individuals present in the environment. Furthermore, the colonies are producing males and new queens that will mate, but only the mated queens overwinter to make new colonies the next year.

Some wasps (all hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets) are attracted to lights, including European hornets, bald-faced hornets, and others. Due to the current seasonal increase in colony numbers, there are more individuals to home in on your home lights. This is why you have probably come across hornets near your porch light.

So what does this mean? Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • European hornets can fly a good distance from their nest, so this activity does not necessarily mean a colony is located nearby. Inspections of the area, perhaps following workers back to the nest (while giving them space) during the day, might be necessary to identify the source of the problem. Nests can sometimes be treated by homeowners, but often need to be professionally removed.
  • Wasps are not likely to be overly aggressive near the lights, but it’s good to stay calm and give them a bit of room.
  • Turning off lights at night will not only help reduce wasp numbers, but will also help reduce the deaths of countless other insects attracted to the lights.

For more information, please feel free to contact us!