The hornet (frelon) is a docile insect, and rarely stings people. They don't buzz around your head like a wasp does! However the stings are highly toxic and painful, and can be life-threatening for some. Hence they are not widely loved.
However, it requires many, many stings to be fatal to the average human (not just three stings, as is often claimed).
For the large part the hornet eats fruit - especially overripe fruit such as figs. This can attract them from a great distance, as can light at night. During autumn as they become established they frequently batter themselves on windows in an attempt to reach the light, sometimes continuing until they die from exhaustion.
Much larger than the common wasp, perhaps 4-5cm long, the hornet lives usually in holes in trees or in chimneys. It is said that a new nest is constructed each year - although our experience has been that they return to the same chimney each year!
It is usually only when one of these hornet nests is approached that the hornets become aggressive and are likely to attack.
More French Wildlife
See more cute animal photos at France wildlife photo gallery