Pest Alert – Hornet Damage on Shrubs
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Do you have a holly, magnolia or other plant that has dead branches? When you look at the tree closely do you see missing bark? It is likely that you have had hornets stripping the bark off of your tree to make nests in the past or maybe currently.
European hornets are not the Japanese ‘murder hornets’ you might have heard of. They are an invasive hornet brought to America in the holds of colonial ships hundreds of years ago. The hornet is generally not given to harming people although when agitated by anyone attacking their nest they can be highly aggressive. They can sting over and over and can be relentless in pursuing anyone who messes with their nest.
These hornets build big basketball sized paper nests. In these gray paper mache hives a single queen raises daughters who leave the nest to hunt other insects and to gather bark. They strip the bark off of trees and regurgitate it as a paste that they form into the nest.
Trees where hornets harvest bark can be visited by succeeding generations of hornets over years. Eventually the hornets girdle stems and kill branches. The areas where bark were harvested in years past form checkered patterns as the tree tries to seal these wounds.
There are no recommended pesticide treatments for shrubs to deter hornets. A bifenthrin bark spray applied to the bark might kills hornets that harvest the treated bark but this is conjecture on my part.