We are surrounded by many interesting insects, among which the hornet occupies a special place. These creatures have a very bright appearance, rather large dimensions, and are excellent hunters of small pests. Hornets are not held in high esteem by humans.
This is not surprising, because they can sting painfully, and their poison in large quantities can even lead to death. However, animals carry great danger only in exceptional cases, a lethal dose can be obtained only with multiple bites. Otherwise, the hornet is a very interesting, useful insect. It's worth learning more about!
View Origin and Description
A large wasp whose flight is accompanied by a loud buzz is a hornet. It is a prominent representative of the family of social wasps, often called the hornet wasp. In Latin, the name of the species sounds like “Vespa”. It is translated into Russian by the word “osa”. Initially, all social wasps were assigned to the genus Vespa. However, in the nineteenth century it was divided into two genera. Hornets are still Vespa and wasps are still Vespula (small wasp).
The origin of the Russian name “hornet” is no less interesting. The root of this word, in turn, means head, horns. For this reason, scientists concluded that the hornet wasp got its name because of the anatomical features of the structure of the head. The animal has an enlarged crown, movable antennae.
To date, about twenty varieties of hornet wasps have been recorded. Vespa mandarinia is recognized as the largest species. Adult Vespa mandarinia can reach five and a half centimeters in length.
Among the various types of hornets, the most interesting of them can be singled out:
- black hornet. This is a little-known, rare type of social wasp. It is listed in the Red Book due to the rapid decline in the population. It has a characteristic color of a predator – yellow stripes on a black back;
- Asiatic. Quite a large species, has a large wingspan. Lives in Asia. It carries a certain danger to humans. Its bite is highly toxic;
- Filipino. Differs in a solid black color, produces a dangerous poison. Lives exclusively in the Philippine Islands;
- Oriental. Of all the representatives of the genus, it has the brightest color. Its belly is decorated with a wide yellow stripe, the body and wings are painted bright red. The species tolerates heat remarkably, lives in the steppes and even in deserts.
Appearance and features
The average size of these insects is from 1.8 to 3.5 centimeters. Only a few species can reach a length of five and a half centimeters. Hornets are different from other members of their family. They have larger dimensions, increased head sizes, and a wide crown. These insects have compound and simple eyes. The color of the head depends on the type of hornet. It can be orange, red with a brown tint, black, yellow.
Adults are distinguished by rather large, strong mandibles. They are colored yellow, brown or black. The head of the insect has brown-black antennae. Their number depends on gender. The abdomen of such a wasp is rounded, with a clearly defined waist. There is a sting at the end of the belly. The sting, if the hornet is calm, is almost imperceptible. It is drawn into the body. At the beginning of the sting there is a special reservoir. It stores poison.
Hornet wasps have the ability to sting repeatedly. Their sting is smooth, straight. It has no notches, unlike bee. For this reason, when stinging, the animal does not harm itself.
The body color of this type of wasp is similar to others – in most hornets it is black and yellow. The only difference is that the stripes alternate less pronouncedly. However, there are varieties, the color of which is completely different from their relatives. For example, the variable hornet has a body with black and brown stripes.
Some hornet wasps have a fairly wide yellow or white stripe on their belly. The whole body is covered with small hairs. They grow randomly and vary in size. Hornets have three pairs of legs. They are either brown or yellow.
Where does the hornet live?
Representatives of this genus are widely distributed in the Northern Hemisphere. Their habitat depends entirely on the characteristics of the species. So, the most popular is the common hornet. This is the only species that lives in large numbers in Ukraine, Russia, and North America. In Russia, such a wasp is more represented in the European part of the territory. It is not found in the far north. Also, the common hornet lives in Japan, Korea, China. Small populations of the animal can be found in Mongolia, Kazakhstan.
North America is not the natural habitat of the common hornet. The insect was brought there quite by accident back in the nineteenth century.
In most of Asia, in the Jewish Autonomous Region, in the Primorsky and Khabarovsk Territories, the Asian hornet lives. It has a large size, in Japan this insect is called the “bee sparrow”. Also in tropical Asia, as in France and Spain, Asian predatory wasps are common. They build their “houses” on tree branches, feed and hunt bees.
The eastern hornet wasp chooses semi-dry subtropical areas for living. It can be found in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Italy, Romania, Greece, North Africa, other European and Asian regions. On the vast territory of the Russian Federation, scientists have noticed eight species of hornets. On the European part of the country live an ordinary, oriental hornet. The other six species of insects live in the south of the Far East.
What does a hornet eat?
The hornet is an amazing creature. It is able to feed on both plant and animal matter. In most varieties of such wasps, the diet consists of products familiar to the family: nectar, plant foods with a high sugar content. They are often seen on rotting fruit, near honey, on trees, from the bark of which juice flows. Hornets constantly fly into orchards. There they feast on sweet overripe fruits. It is at this moment that an animal can sting a person who reaches for a fruit.
Despite the fact that sweet nectar, fruits, and plant foods can fully satisfy the needs of the hornet's body, these insects can instantly turn into excellent hunters. They kill other small insects with powerful jaws and stings. Locusts, other types of wasps, bees, grasshoppers, butterflies, spiders become their victims. Predatory species of hornets can destroy about five hundred bee colonies in their lifetime, wasps.
The most surprising fact is that the hornets themselves rarely eat dead insects for their own food. The animal thoroughly chews its prey to a uniform state of suspension. Adults bring this suspension to nests and give it to voracious larvae. Considering that small pests are eaten by the larvae, the hornet can be called a useful insect.
Character and lifestyle features
Hornet wasps lead a social lifestyle. They huddle in flocks and build nests. The number of one flock can reach hundreds of individuals. Hornet nests are distinguished by special grace and grace. These insects are among the best builders. The founder of the nest is always the female who survived the winter. With the onset of heat, the female begins to search for a suitable place. Usually this place becomes an abandoned hollow in a tree, an attic of a residential building, a gap in a rock.
The female starts building a nest from rotting wood, old bark. In this nest, she establishes her colony. The first offspring of the female become worker wasps. They take over all the responsibilities for the construction, protection of the house, nutrition of offspring. Working hornets spend all day looking for food: nectar, plants, small insects. The lifestyle of hornets is predominantly diurnal.
These insects have a fairly high level of development. All representatives of the genus are able to distinguish the status of each other. They do this by smell and other characteristics of adults.
The character of the hornets is not warlike, they are not annoying. They will not climb into a jar of jam, they will not bother with their presence around a feast with sweets and fruits. Hornets prefer to avoid the company of people, although they often build their nests in the attics of residential buildings. Despite this, hornet attacks on people are not so rare. And not always such a bite can go unnoticed. There are severe allergic reactions. This is due to the high proportion of histamine in the venom of these insects.
Social Structure and Reproduction
Hornet wasps are quite prolific insects. However, not all females are fertile. Queens are capable of reproducing offspring. They are usually large in size. It is the females who become the founders of the hornet family, they begin the construction of the house (nest). Before laying eggs, the uterus, with the onset of the first heat, is looking for a safe, convenient place to build a house. She lays her eggs after building the first few hives.
Further, her duties include searching for food and caring for future offspring. It takes a certain amount of time for the eggs to mature. First, larvae emerge from them, then adults. When new members of the community become like adult hornets, they take over all the duties of their parent. The uterus continues to lay eggs, and the worker wasps get food, guard the house, complete it, take care of the larvae.
Four weeks later, new hornets emerge from the larvae. They usually kill the queen due to her inability to reproduce anymore. Some individuals simply kick her out of the nest. Representatives of the genus living in the European part do not live long. Their total lifespan is only a few months. Only the uterus is distinguished by a long life expectancy. They are able to spend the winter in suspended animation.
Hornets can give a good rebuff to their enemy with the whole flock. For their own protection, they know how to quickly mobilize forces. This animal releases an alarm pheromone in case of danger. If such a signal is noticed by its relatives, then the attacker is in real danger.
Natural enemies of the hornets
Hornets do not have many natural enemies. This is due to the fact that these insects are relatively peaceful. They prefer to run away from the enemy. Only by defending itself can a hornet prove to be a real hunter. Such animals are especially ferocious if someone covets their nest, offspring, uterus. Also, a small number of natural enemies is explained by the poisonousness of hornet wasps, as evidenced by their bright color. Other animals try to avoid such insects.
In a number of natural enemies of hornets, you can write:
- small parasites. Nematodes, riders, ticks slowly but surely kill large hornets, greatly undermine their health;
- some species of birds. Only certain species of birds are able to hunt representatives of social wasps. Most birds simply swallow them whole, preventing the insect from stinging them;
- fungi. A fungus can grow in a hornet's head, leading to a painful and long death;
- other insects. Hornets can be killed by larger wasps, ants. Ants most often feast on insect larvae;
- people. Despite the benefits, hornets are considered pests. They settle in residential buildings, are quite dangerous for human health and life, and cause significant damage to young trees. For this reason, hornet nests are often destroyed by humans.
Population and species status
The genus of hornets is quite wide. It includes more than twenty different varieties of insects that differ in color, size, diet and lifestyle. Due to the presence of several species, high fertility, this genus is not endangered, it is not listed in the Red Book.
The general population of hornets does not cause concern among scientists. It is normal, causes the least concern, has a low risk of extinction. However, if we consider the population of hornet wasps in the context of individual species, the situation is not so encouraging. Many species are on the verge of extinction, listed in the Red Books of individual states and cities. There are completely different reasons for the reduction in the number of such animals, which can be found in the next section of the publication.
The common hornet can be attributed to endangered species. Its population in various regions of its natural habitat is very unstable. In particular, this species is included in the Red Book of the Smolensk region. Also a small representative of the genus of hornets is the Dybovsky hornet (black). It is medium in size for hornets, has a black-brown color, and is a predator. The black hornet is included in the Red Book of the Chita region. Some species of hornets are listed in the Red Books of Germany and many other European countries.
As noted above, in general, nothing threatens the genus of hornet wasps. The population of this genus is quite high, which is largely due to the fecundity of females. However, some species of hornets are gradually losing their numbers, this is especially noticeable in some regions of their natural habitat.
The following factors influence this:
- short life expectancy. Adults live only a few months. Only queens are able to stay alive after the winter. They spend her hibernating;
- impact of natural enemies. Large colonies of hornets are destroyed by people, some predatory animals, ants, birds. The greatest harm is, of course, people. They deliberately destroy entire nests of hornets due to the negative impact of these insects;
- intensive deforestation. Hornet wasps most often settle in forests, building their nests on tree branches. By cutting down wood, people deprive these insects of a roof over their heads, the opportunity to breed, to feed on the juice of young trees;
- processing trees, fruits, plants with various pesticides. This is the main factor negatively affecting the populations of all animals, including insects. Intensive treatment with poisons leads to the death of hornets.
The hornet is the largest representative of a huge family of wasps. This is a fairly peaceful species of insects, despite its high toxicity. Only in exceptional cases, hornets show aggressiveness. Hornets are excellent builders, hardworking social wasps that bring many benefits to humans, destroying a large number of small pests.