Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Cuticle acts as cooling mechanism: Oriental hornet

The cuticle of wasps provides a cooling mechanism by use of hairs, thin layers, and tracheal branches.

  "In the social wasps Vespa orientalis and Paravespula germanica (Hymenoptera, Vespinae), a thermogenic center has been found in the dorsal part of the first thoracic segment. The temperature in this region of the prothorax is higher by 6-9°C than that at the tip of the abdomen, and this in actively flying hornets outside the nest (workers, males or queens) as well as in hornets inside the nest that attend to the brood in the combs. On viewing the region from the outside, one discerns a canal or rather a fissure in the cuticle, which commences at the center of the dorsal surface of the prothorax and extends till the mesothorax. Thus the length of this canal or fissure is ~5-7 mm and it is seen to contain numerous thin hairs whose shape varies from that of the hairs alongside the structure. Beneath the cuticle in this region there are dorsoventral as well as longitudinal muscles in abundance, much the same as the musculature in the remaining thoracic segments (i.e. the meso- and metathorax), which activate the two pairs of wings. The canal-bearing segment is of course devoid of wings, and its dorsoventral muscles are attached to the cuticle, which in this region resembles a bowl harboring several layers of epithelium that boasts numerous butterfly-shaped tracheal branches. Additionally there are layers that display lymph-filled spaces and also perforated layers and depressions, and beneath all these is a lace-like layer that also coats the cuticle's hollows. Underneath the cuticle proper, there are numerous large mitochondria and tracheae, which occupy a considerable part of the cuticular epithelium surface. These abundant mitochondria are, most probably, the main element of heat production in the thermogenic center." (Ishay et al. 2006:41)

"Hornets and wasps are unique in that, even in the absence of sweat glands, they are able to buzz around at temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius without overheating. A new theory presented by Jacob Ishay and colleagues at Tel Aviv University suggests that hornets may keep cool by using their cuticle as an electrical heat pump. The team believes that hornet cuticle is comprised of a stack of thermocouples, which transfer heat from one type of conductive material to another when voltage is applied. The voltage in this scenario would be the hornet's own metabolism, or conversely, solar energy." (Courtesy of the Biomimicry Guild)

  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Ishay, J. S.; Plotkin, M.; Ermakov, N. Y.; Volynchik, S.; Barkay, Z.; Bergman, D. J. 2006. The thermogenic center in social wasps. Journal of Electron Microscopy. 55(1): 41-49.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Vespa orientalis

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

There is 1 barcode sequence available from BOLD and GenBank.   Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.  Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.

-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Vespa orientalis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Oriental hornet

The Oriental hornet, Vespa orientalis, is a hornet which looks very similar to the European hornet. It should not be confused with the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia).

It is commonly found in the Sub-Mediterranean area, but can also be found in Madagascar, United Arab Emirates and India.[1] However, due to human introduction, its habitat is beginning to spread to South America up to Mexico.[2]

The female queen measures 25 to 35 mm long; males and workers are smaller.

In males, the antennae have 13 segments, while females always have 12.

Research and experiments[edit]

Oriental Wasp - Face.jpg

Israeli Space Agency Investigation About Hornets[edit]

The Israeli Space Agency Investigation About Hornets[3] (ISAIAH) was a project from Tel-Aviv University initiated in 1984 to explore the effects of near-zero gravity on oriental hornets, their development and their nest-building instincts. The experiments was funded by the Israel Space Agency with the goal of discovering ways to prevent astronauts from suffering headaches, nausea, and vomiting during the missions. The payload, consisting of 230 Oriental hornets, flight hardware and measuring instruments, was packed onto the Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-47 in 1992.

During the launch 202 hornets died as a result of a malfunction in the water system that caused an abnormal increase in humidity. The surviving hornets lost their sense of direction and, unlike the control unit hornets, were unable to climb on the walls or stay in clusters. Instead, they stayed motionless and apart from each other. Roughly 3 to 4 days upon returning to earth, the hornets started climbing on the walls and building a nest. The surviving hornets lived for an average of 23 days instead of 43 like the control hornets.[4]

Yellow stripe[edit]

In 2010 a team of researchers from Israeli and British universities discovered that the yellow stripe in the hornet's abdomen is capable of harvesting the sun's light and converting it into energy. The process is made possible by a pigment called xanthopterin. This might explain why the insects are more active during intense sunlight, unlike most hornets.[5]


  1. ^ Buxton, P. A. (July 1920). "CARRIAGE OF COLIFORM BACILLI BY THE ORIENTAL HORNET". The Journal of Hygiene (Cambridge University Press) 19 (1): 68–71. JSTOR 3859114. PMC 2206882. PMID 20474704. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Dvorak, Libor (June 2006). "Oriental Hornet Vespa orientalis Linnaeus, 1771 found in Mexico". Entomological Problems 36: 80. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "STS-47". NASA. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Hornet Experiment". IAMI. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Walker, Matt (6 December 2010). "Oriental hornets powered by 'solar energy'". BBC Earth News. Retrieved 9 December 2010. 
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