Overview

Brief Summary

The European hornet, Vespo crabro, is a large eusocial wasp native to Europe, now found world-wide in a number of color morphs and sub-species. It was first reported in the United States in 1840 in New York and currently ranges throughout the Eastern US as far west as Dakotas. Technically, the European hornet is the only true hornet in North America. It belongs to the sub-family of wasps called the Vespinae, which includes yellowjackets (genera Vespula and Dolichovespula), hornets (genus Vespo), and a lesser-known genus, provespa. In the spring, European hornets build a large paper nest in a hollow tree or other sheltered cavity, usually two meters or more above the ground. By fall a nest may have up to 1000 workers, though more typical size is 300. Only overwintering queens survive to the next year to build the first cells of a new nest, in which they lay eggs. These hatch out as workers, which then forage for food to feed new larvae and expand and protect the nest. Like other hornets, Vespo crabro is carnivorous, eating small insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, flies, caterpillars, and other wasps. European hornets are larger than yellow jackets, with drones about to 3.5 cm long. Despite their rather fearsome appearance, European hornets are rarely aggressive and will usually only attack if the colony is threatened. Vespo crabro has been much maligned and is now locally threatened or endangered in parts of Europe, because of destruction of its nests. Germany has protected this species by imposing the consequence of a large fine for killing a nest or wasp. In Australia, however, this invasive species has become a noxious pest, thriving especially in warm climates. (Arkive 2011; Jacobs 2010; Kosmeier 2010; Wikipedia 2011)

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Supplier: Dana Campbell

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Taxonomy

The hornets belong to the insect order Hymenoptera, which include:
  • sawflies
  • parasitoid wasps
  • bees
  • social wasps
  • ants
The social wasps belong to the family Vespidae, which contains a great many species in 6 subfamilies, 2 of which contain mostly eusocial species.Within the subfamily Vespinae, 4 genera are recognised:The 3 species of Provespa are restricted to tropical Asia but the other genera are more widely distributed and species-rich.The familiar 'yellowjackets' are found in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Natural History Museum, London

Partner Web Site: Natural History Museum

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Introduction

The hornet genus Vespa is distinctive. All species within the genus are large wasps with a characteristic head shape - in dorsal view, the 'temples' of the head are widened. Vespa crabro also has a completely yellow face and brown mesoscutum (top of the thorax).Vespa crabro is the only indigenous hornet throughout northern and western Europe and northern Asia, but it is 1 of 24 species of Vespa, most of which are found in tropical south-east Asia.No other species of hornet has been found nesting in Britain and none is expected to arrive in the near future.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Natural History Museum, London

Partner Web Site: Natural History Museum

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Biology

Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new nest (2). She begins to build the nest with chewed wood pulp, and a few eggs are laid in individual paper cells; these eggs develop into non-reproductive workers. When 5-10 workers have emerged, they take over the care of the nest, and the rest of queen's life is devoted solely to egg laying (2). Hornet workers capture insects, bringing them back to the nest to feed the brood. Most people do not realise that hornets control many species of insect pests, and their presence in a garden should be welcomed (2). Workers need more high-energy sugary foods such as sap and nectar, and hornet larvae are able to exude a sugary liquid which the workers can feed on (2). The nest grows throughout the summer, reaching its peak size towards mid September. At this time the queen lays eggs that develop into males (drones) and new queens, she then dies shortly after. The new queens and males mate during a 'nuptial flight', after which the males die, and the newly mated queens seek out suitable places in which to hibernate; the old nest is never re-used (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Description

The hornet is an impressive insect, and is Britain's largest social wasp (4). Despite its rather fearsome appearance, it is rarely aggressive (1); this species has been much maligned and will usually only attack if the colony is threatened. Queens (reproductive females) are larger than males and workers (non-reproductive females. The head features large, c-shaped eyes, robust antennae and three simple eyes or 'ocelli' arranged in a triangle between the main eyes (2). The thorax and abdomen are separated by a distinct 'wasp-waist', and there are alternating bright orange-yellow and brownish-black stripes along the abdomen. There are two pairs of wings, which are joined together by means of tiny hooks, giving the appearance that there is just one pair of wings (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Comprehensive Description

Biology

The hornet, like all other Vespinae - except for some social parasite, 'cuckoo' species - is eusocial. This means they live in colonies and most progeny are sterile females called workers.The nest is constructed in a cavity that might be in:
  • a dead tree
  • a hole in the ground
  • thatch
  • an old bee hive
Initially, a small nest is constructed by the queen.The young are fed mainly on insects whilst the adults subsist mainly on nectar, sap and other sugary secretions.Once the workers start to emerge as adults, they expand the nest.The nest is constructed of papery material derived from rotten wood, which the hornets chew and apply as paste.Inside the nest are cells in which the larvae are individually reared.The nest is protected by an envelope. The outer surface is striped cream, brown, yellow and white and has characteristic 'bubbles' or 'blisters', which probably help regulate the temperature of the nest.Late in summer, males and queens are produced. Mated queens are the only individuals that over-winter, usually in soil or in cavities. They found new colonies in the spring. The old nest is not re-used.Workers can be conspicuous as they hunt in woodland but are rarely aggressive or sting when unprovoked.They often fly on warm nights, are attracted to lights and may enter houses.For this reason, hornets can be a hazard when light trapping for moths! The sting is painful and can throb for several hours.Hornets can be a nuisance around bee hives as they prey on honey bees near the entrance.

Reproduction
All Hymenoptera have a peculiar sex-determination mechanism, whereby fertilised (diploid) eggs become females but unfertilised (haploid) eggs become males.Thus, females have the usual 2 sets of chromosomes but males have only 1 set.This system of sex determination can produce wasp sisters that are more closely related to their siblings than to their own offspring. The system may have played a role in the evolution of eusociality, where workers do not raise their own young.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Natural History Museum, London

Partner Web Site: Natural History Museum

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

This species was considered rare in Britain in the 1960s, but it has since made a recovery and has become fairly common in some parts of the south of England. It seems to be spreading northwards and reached south Yorkshire in 1985 (1). It is found throughout Europe, but it is rare in many parts of Germany and is even threatened with extinction in some areas of central Europe (2). This species also occurs in Asia and Madagascar, and has been introduced to the United States and Canada (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Hornets nest in hollow trees, wall cavities, chimneys and similar structures (1). They show a preference for wooded areas (3).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Plant / resting place / within
puparium of Brachicoma devia may be found in soil near nest of Vespa crabro

Plant / resting place / within
larva of Potamia littoralis may be found in nest of Vespa crabro

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

General Ecology

Distribution ecology

The hornet has a wide distribution, ranging across the Palaearctic from western Europe to Japan. Its range extends to the Oriental region in the Far East and to Algeria in North Africa but other Vespa species tend to dominate in these areas.It has also been introduced to North America and is now found widely in Canada and the USA.In Britain, the hornet is a predominantly southern species but is spreading north from its strongholds around Exeter and the New Forest.Its British distribution is being mapped by the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society. You can see a map of the hornet's British distribution on the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Gateway.You can see the European distribution of Vespa crabro and Vespa orientalis (the only other native European hornet) on the Fauna Europea website.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Natural History Museum, London

Partner Web Site: Natural History Museum

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Vespa crabro

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Vespa crabro

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 12
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Status

Common only in parts of south England (3).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

In parts of Europe this beautiful wasp is threatened as a direct result of persecution by humans (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation

This species has a bad public image, yet it is generally a peaceful, non-aggressive species. More needs to be done to educate the public about this fascinating insect (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

European hornet

The European hornet Vespa crabro, commonly known simply as the "hornet," or "bell hornet" in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, is the largest European eusocial wasp, and the largest hornet in North America. The queen measures 25 to 35 mm (1–1.4 in) long; workers are 18–24 mm. In males, as in most members of the Aculeata, the antennae have 13 segments, while in females there are only 12; also as in other aculeates, the male abdomen has seven visible segments, while the female has six; females possess an ovipositor modified into a sting which is not barbed. See wasp and bee characteristics to help identify similar insects.

This species will sting in response to being stepped on or grabbed but generally avoid conflict. They are also defensive of their hive and can be aggressive around food sources. They are carnivorous and eat large insects: primarily wasps, large moths, and other large bees. Care should be taken when encountered in these circumstances as they may sting without warning. The pain from the sting may persist for several days with attendant swelling. If you are stung you may wish to seek medical attention. [1]

Description[edit]

Vespa crabro dorsal view
Male Vespa crabro ventral view

The eyes are deeply indented, shaped like a C. The wings are reddish-orange, while the petiolate abdomen is brown striped with yellow. The European hornet is larger than the common wasp, but smaller than some Asian hornet species. It has hair on the thorax and abdomen, although the European hornet is not as hairy as most bees.[1]

European hornets don't have the rove beetle Velleius dilatatus living in their colonies.

Relationship with humans[edit]

Urban legends[edit]

A nest under construction
A European hornet
European hornets (Vespa crabro) on a nest.

European hornets are often mischaracterised as very aggressive and dangerous, and are greatly feared by some people. Some people believe that "three stings from the European hornet can kill an adult human, and seven can kill a horse". These are common myths – a sting from a European hornet is no more dangerous than any other wasp sting, and European hornets are usually less aggressive than other wasps. In contrast, multiple Asian giant hornets stings are, in fact, more dangerous. While impressive due to their size and loud sound, European hornets are in fact much less aggressive than some of their smaller relatives, such as the German Wasp and the common wasp. When approached, European hornets can actually be seen to slowly crawl backwards and eventually flee, rather than attack. This can make it hard to remove hornets from indoors, if they happen to come in through an open window or door. Although not aggressive when encountered far from the nest, multiple workers will vigorously defend the nest if provoked. Nests can be approached without provocation (by moving slowly and not breathing towards the nest) to about 50 cm (20 in). Nests are usually not a problem outside buildings, but because they drip feces, a bad-smelling black liquid, nests inside sheds or walls can be a problem.

Endangered species and legal protection[edit]

Unwarranted fear has often led to the destruction of nests, leading to the decline of the species, which is often locally threatened or even endangered. European hornets benefit from legal protection in some countries, notably Germany, where it has been illegal to kill a European hornet or nest since 1 January 1987, with a fine of up to 50,000 Euros.[2]

Attraction to lights and food[edit]

European hornets are attracted to lights at night, but are not attracted to human foods and food wastes. However, they can totally destroy fruits, such as apples, while the fruit is still on the tree. This is quite unlike the bald-faced hornet or other social wasps.

Problems associated[edit]

European hornets are carnivores and eat many species of insects. Many of these insects are considered pests in the garden, which indicates that the hornet provides a benefit to the average garden/farm. However, they are known to eradicate domestic honeybee hives, resulting in fewer honeybees for open pollination. They also tend to girdle branches, which results in dead branches.[3]

Geographic colour forms[edit]

European hornet with prey (a honeybee)

European hornets worldwide are found with geographic colour forms:[4][5]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "European Hornet". 
  2. ^ "Hornets are worthy of protection!". 
  3. ^ http://www.ca.uky.edu/entomology/dept/entfacts.asp
  4. ^ V. Dubatolov, J. Kojima, J. M. Carpenter, A. Lvovsky (2003). "Subspecies of Vespa crabro in two different papers by Birula in 1925". Entomological Science 6 (2003): 215–216. doi:10.1046/j.1343-8786.2003.00037.x. 
  5. ^ J.M. Carpenter, J. Kojima (1997). "Checklist of the species in the subfamily Vespinae (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Vespidae)". Natural History Bulletin of Ibaraki University 1 (1997): 51–92. 
  6. ^ "Hornets in Great Britain". hornissenschutz.de. Dieter Kosmeier. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!