Hornets Description and Characteristics

Hornets are very useful insects, but people do not like them for the reason that they can sting painfully. Their poison can indeed cause a serious allergic reaction in the body, and in large quantities even leads to death. In this article, we will consider the description and main types of hornets, their comparison with bees and wasps, and also find out why their bites are dangerous and what should be done.

What does a hornet look like: description, structure, characteristic

You can recognize the hornet by its large size. Outwardly, it looks like a giant wasp and moves with the help of large wings, while emitting a characteristic buzz.

Consider a detailed description and body structure of adults:

  1. The insect belongs to the type of arthropods, a subclass of winged insects.
  2. The body of an adult is oblong and, depending on the species, has a length of up to 5.5 cm.
  3. The head is large, with a wide crown. Its color may be orange or black with a small splash of yellow.
  4. Adults have a pair of faceted eyes and 3 ordinary eyes. Antennas are also located on the head.
  5. On the front of the head are powerful jaws of orange, black or brown. They serve for hunting, chewing food and building a nest.
  6. The abdomen is round and tight at the junction with the chest. The color of the abdomen is an alternation of black and yellow transverse stripes.
  7. Females have a sting at the end of the abdomen, which is essentially a modified ovipositor. It is pulled into the abdomen, but comes out when the hornet goes on the attack.
  8. The sting has a smooth surface, hollow inside. At its base is a special gland that secretes poison, and a special reservoir in which the poison accumulates.
  9. Three pairs of legs extend from the chest of the insect. They can be yellow, black or brown. Each limb has a complex structure.
  10. In adults, 2 pairs of wings - large anterior and small hind. They are located on the front of the chest and during flight form a solid plane, since the hind wings are attached to the front with small hooks.

Did you know? Hornets were introduced into North America only in the second half of the 19th century. They came to the continent on the ships of sailors from Europe.


There are various varieties of hornets that differ from each other in their external features and habitat. In total there are 23 species of these insects. Some individuals produce strong poison and are especially dangerous to humans. The only ones that feed on hornets are large spiders or birds. Consider the most interesting types in more detail.


The second name of this species is European. In appearance, it most resembles a giant wasp.

List of the main characteristics of this type:

  1. Insects are large, the body length of an adult is 2.4–2.8 cm. The uterus can have a length of up to 3.5 cm.
  2. The abdomen of adults has a two-color color from alternately arranged black and orange-yellow transverse stripes. In females, it is divided into 6 segments, and in males - by 7.
  3. Males and females of this species have a different number of segments on the antennae. In females, each antennae consists of 12 parts, and in males - of 13.
  4. Only females have a sting and is used by females to protect the nest from attack. The tip size is about 3 mm.
  5. The front of the insect head is yellow, and its rear is red or orange.
  6. The habitat of the species is Europe, the countries of North America, as well as Asia.

Important! The female hornet can use the sting several times, as it is smooth and does not remain in the victim’s body after being bitten.


In external characteristics, it resembles a very large fly, but it belongs to one of the most dangerous species of hornets.

Consider the main characteristic of this type:

  1. Adult individuals are painted in solid black or dark brown. White stripes are visible on the abdomen.
  2. The head of the insect is saturated orange with a yellowish tint, has large sizes.
  3. The deplorable hornet emits a particularly dangerous poison, which is characterized by increased toxicity. Therefore, his bite can be deadly to humans.
  4. The homeland of the representatives of this species is the Philippine Islands.


This species is able to absorb sunlight and transform it into electricity. This property is explained by the presence of a special pigment in the body of insects - xenotropin.

Description of the Eastern Hornet:

  1. The body length of an adult is 2.4–2.5 cm, and in the uterus, up to 3 cm.
  2. The wings have an oblong shape and a rich crimson color.
  3. The body of the insects is painted reddish brown. On the abdomen there is a wide bright yellow transverse stripe.
  4. This species can build nests above the ground, as well as under the roots of trees and in deadwood.
  5. The habitat is the eastern countries (Iran, India, Turkey, China, Pakistan) and the countries of southern Europe (Italy, Greece, Bulgaria).

Dybovsky hornet

This species is rare and differs from others in that its representatives do not build personal nests. Instead, they prefer to attack other people's homes and capture them, killing the queen.

List of the main characteristics of the species:

  1. Adults have a trunk up to 2.5 cm long, and the length of the uterus can reach 3.5 cm.
  2. The wings are elongated, brownish.
  3. The body of the insect has a solid black-brown color. On the abdomen there are several narrow dark orange stripes.
  4. The homeland of the species are China, India and Japan.

Did you know? Hornets practically do not sleep and retain moderate activity even at night. To restore strength, insects simply freeze in one place for several seconds.

Giant asian

Adult individuals of this species are the largest hornets in the world. Their bites are especially painful for humans and can seriously damage their health, since the insect's body produces a strong poison - mandorotoxin.

List of the main characteristics of the species:

  1. The body length of an adult female can reach 5 cm, and her wingspan is 7.5 cm.
  2. For adults of this species, the presence of a wide head of a bright orange color is characteristic.
  3. The abdomen of the insect has a bright color, consisting of alternating brown and yellow stripes.
  4. The sting has a length of up to 0.6 cm and is the largest in comparison with other types.
  5. Insects live mainly in the mountains. They can be found in China, India, Nepal and Korea.

Japanese hornet

This is a kind of giant Asian hornet, but differs from it in some features.

A description of the Japanese hornet is presented below:

  1. The body of adult individuals has a length of about 4 cm, wingspan - up to 6 cm.
  2. The insect has a large yellow head, equipped with 3 ordinary eyes and a pair of faceted eyes.
  3. The abdomen is dark brown in color and is covered with yellow transverse lines.
  4. The sting of adults can reach a length of 6 mm.
  5. Japanese hornet produces nerve poison, which has increased toxicity and can lead to death if it enters the human body.

Life expectancy and features of residence

A distinct hierarchy is established in the hornet's nest, according to which each adult takes a certain position and performs only specified functions. Such a caste classification allows the most efficient distribution of responsibilities between all individuals, organizing the structure of the nest, feeding the growing voracious larvae, as well as protecting the nest from attack.

According to caste, all individuals in the nest are divided into three groups:

  1. The uterus (queen) - is responsible for the reproduction and breeding of offspring, and is also the most important individual in the nest. Its life cycle can reach 2 years, but usually lasts about 1 year;
  2. Males - are intended for fertilization of young females. After mating with females, which in the future will become uterus, the life expectancy of males is no more than 2 weeks;
  3. Working individuals (females) - make up the majority of the total number of insects in the colony. They are responsible for feeding the offspring, the further construction of the nest and its protection from pests. Life expectancy of working females is about 30 days.

Important! Towards the end of its life cycle, the hornet's uterus is noticeably aging and sluggish, and its wings become tattered.

Where live?

The natural habitat of the hornet is all regions of the planet with a temperate climate. The largest number of these insects is in Europe, but various representatives of this family can also be found in North Africa, Asia and North America. Insects build large nests for living, which can consist of more than 10 tiers. They accommodate the uterus, males and female workers.

Consider a description of the appearance of the nest:

  1. The design consists of many tiers and can have a round, oval or pear-shaped shape. At the bottom of the socket is a round hole that serves as an entrance.
  2. The surface of the nest is rough and similar in appearance to corrugated paper.
  3. The color of the nest can be brown, yellow, beige and even purple. The dimensions of the structure are up to 70 cm in height and about 40 cm in width.
  4. Insects use soft wood fibers to build the nest. They chew them, getting sticky building material that sticks together with saliva.
  5. Insect nests can be found in hollows and on tree branches, over cliffs, under the roof of various buildings, in caves. Some species build their nests even underground.


In the cold season, the uterus hibernates. Adult individuals do not survive the winter, therefore, with the onset of spring, the queen begins the construction of a new nest and displays her own offspring.

Consider this process in more detail:

  1. The Queen's awakening takes place around the second half of May. Having woken up, the uterus finds a suitable place and begins the construction of the first cells of its nest.
  2. In each individual section, the uterus lays 1 egg. After about a week, a thick white larva appears, having a size of about 2 mm.
  3. The larvae are carnivorous, so the queen begins to catch insects and feed them to offspring. After 14 days, the grown caterpillar begins to weave a cocoon.
  4. After 2 weeks, an adult appears from the pupa. She gnaws a cell of honeycombs and flies out.
  5. Emerging adults are engaged in the further construction of the nest and obtain food for the next generation of larvae. The queen continues to lay eggs, from which new young individuals hatch.
  6. In late August, the uterus lays fertilized eggs, from which young females with the ability to reproduce are subsequently born.
  7. After birth, these females fly out of the nest and mate with males. After the fertilization process, young hornet uterus collect sperm in a special department.
  8. In the last warm days of autumn, young fertilized females begin to eat actively, accumulating strength for a successful wintering. Then they look for a suitable place and hibernate. After a successful wintering of the uterus, the described cycle is repeated again.

Did you know? In one nest there can be up to 500 hornet larvae that constantly require fresh food.


Hornets belong to omnivorous insects and can eat a variety of foods that are found nearby. Their diet consists mainly of vegetarian dishes, but these insects can become active hunters to feed numerous offspring.

Consider the main types of food that a hornet eats:

  • fruits at the last stage of maturity (pears, blue plums, apples);
  • flower nectar;
  • honey;
  • sap secreted on the bark of trees;
  • small flying insects;
  • small spiders, grasshoppers;
  • caterpillars and larvae of various insects;
  • bees and wasps;
  • meat and fish food waste.
Adult individuals carefully chew and feed their caught insects and caterpillars to their growing larvae.

Did you know? One hornet family, who settled near the garden, can destroy up to 500 g of various pests of vegetable crops in a day.

Differences from other species

From the point of view of a zoologist, hornets and wasps belong to the same family. These insects are similar to each other in the color of the abdomen and the presence of a sting, but there are fundamental differences between them. Some people also mistakenly consider hornets and bees to be friendly relatives, but in reality they are enemies. Next, we consider the main differences between hornets and bees and wasps.

From the bees

Bees collect sweet honey whose smell attracts hornets. They can attack the bee apiary and destroy not only the stocks of honey, but also the bees themselves.

The appearance of these insects also varies significantly:

  • size - the bees are much smaller, and their body has a rounded shape;
  • body color - the body of both insects is covered with fluff, but for bees the pattern is brighter and consists of black and yellow colors, and for the hornet it is made of black, yellow and brown;
  • waist - the bees do not have a sharp interception between the belly and chest;
  • jaws - in bees they are smaller and not so strong;
  • sting - in bees it is shorter and remains in the body of the victim after a bite, and the hornet always pulls the sting back into the abdomen;
  • limbs - in bees they are thicker and covered with fluff.

Important! The hornet family can completely ruin an apiary and destroy all bees. Therefore, when a hornet nest appears near the apiary, it must be immediately destroyed.

From wasps

Despite the biological point of view, wasps are the “sisters” of the hornets, these insects are at odds with each other. Hornets often catch wasps to feed them to their larvae.

Consider the main differences between a hornet and a wasp:

  • sizes - hornets are 2 times larger than wasps, and their body is covered with a fluff;
  • body color - in wasps, the abdomen consists only of yellow and black stripes, and for hornets, brown color is added to them, and the pattern of stripes on the body of the wasp is brighter and more contrast;
  • the shape of the head - in hornets it is round and large, and in wasps it is smaller and tapers to the base;
  • the color of the cephalothorax is dark brown for hornets, and black for wasps;
  • waist - in wasps it is thinner and better expressed;
  • jaw size - in the hornet they are more developed, as they serve not only for chewing food, but also for hunting other insects;
  • sting - for wasps it is shorter and has small teeth.

Hornet bite

The sting of this insect has a cavity inside and resembles the needle of a medical syringe. At its base is a special gland that produces strong poison. It contains toxic components such as acetylcholine and histamine, which have a detrimental effect on the human body and cause an active allergic reaction. When an adult stings a victim, the sting pierces the skin and injects poison.

After this, a person may experience the following symptoms:

  • severe pain from a bite;
  • redness and swelling around the site of the bite;
  • severe itching;
  • suppuration and inflammation in the bite;
  • a sharp increase in body temperature;
  • anaphylactic shock.
In some cases, the bite of this insect can be fatal.

What to do if a hornet has bitten?

A person who has been bitten by a hornet needs immediate medical attention. It should be aimed at eliminating the negative effects of the toxic poison on the body.

Read more about the danger of a hornet bite for a person and how to provide first aid.

Consider the step-by-step instructions for first aid:

  1. Suck out poison from a wound formed by an insect sting. This action can give a result only if it is carried out within the first 2 minutes after a bite. After this time, the skin around the wound will begin to tighten and it will be impossible to remove the poison in this way.
  2. Take an antiallergic drug . It will suspend a quick allergic reaction and partially neutralize insect venom. You can use any antihistamine drug (for example, "Suprastin").
  3. Make a cold compress and attach it to the bite site . Cold will prevent the rapid spread of poison in the body, as well as reduce swelling and pain at the site of the bite.
  4. Spread the wound with any medicine against insect bites (for example, "Fenistilom"). This will reduce redness and pain, prevent wound suppuration.
  5. If the victim's body temperature rises above +38 ° C, then he should be given antipyretic drugs. If the body temperature after a bite increased, but did not reach the indicated mark, then it is not recommended to knock it down - this way the body fights the negative effect of the poison.
  6. The victim should not drink alcohol - alcohol enhances the negative effect of insect venom on the body.
  7. With a further deterioration in well-being, you should immediately consult a doctor.

Tips for getting rid of hornets

Hornets are dangerous to humans, but they also eat many pests, which benefit the garden. Therefore, it is recommended to destroy their nests only as a last resort, when these insects settled very close to the house or near a bee apiary.

You can get rid of these insects using various methods listed below:

  1. If a hornet flew into an apartment, then it should not be kicked out or tried to slam a towel, since the insect will perceive these actions as a threat and will attack. Better to wait until he sits on a flat surface and cover it with a glass jar. Затем горлышко ёмкости надо аккуратно закрыть крышкой и вынести на улицу, чтобы особь вылетела из банки.
  2. Чтобы отпугнуть шершней с садового участка, можно повесить возле их гнезда стручок красного острого перца.
  3. Уничтожить небольшое количество насекомых поможет отвар на основе борной кислоты . На 200 мл воды нужно добавить измельчённые мухоморы (2–3 шт.) и 1 ст. l борной кислоты, затем кипятить смесь на плите в течение нескольких минут. Полученную отраву охладить и разлить в маленькие ёмкости, добавляя к ней немного мёда в качестве приманки.
  4. Можно установить ловушки, сделанные из пластиковых бутылок . Верхушку бутылки надо отрезать, перевернуть и вставить горлышком вниз в оставшуюся нижнюю половину ёмкости. На дно ловушки налить мёд или варенье в качестве приманки, чтобы насекомые залетали через горлышко внутрь и не могли выбраться обратно.
  5. Шершней отпугивает резкий аромат некоторых растений. Чтобы прогнать насекомых, на участке нужно посадить герань, мелиссу или мяту.
  6. Если наполнить водой ведро и поставить его на стремянку так, чтобы гнездо хотя бы частично погрузилось в воду, то все представители семейства намокнут и погибнут.
  7. Можно полить гнездо большим количеством кипятка так, чтобы он попал на все части сооружения. Под воздействием воды с высокой температурой все особи погибнут.
  8. Чтобы истребить всё семейство, можно загерметизировать всю поверхность гнезда и главное его отверстие с помощью монтажной пены. Она перекроет насекомым доступ кислорода и света, в результате чего все особи задохнутся. После этого гнездо можно снять и уничтожить.
  9. Можно полить гнездо бензином, а затем поджечь. Огонь полностью уничтожит шершней, но этот способ нельзя использовать, если рядом есть легковоспламеняющиеся предметы или гнездо находится под крышей дома.
  10. Если гнездо насекомых находится в труднодоступном месте, то рядом можно разжечь специальную дымовую шашку от ос . Во время тления она выделяет ядовитый перметрин, который убивает насекомых.
  11. Чтобы прогнать шершней с участка, можно установить ультразвуковой отпугиватель насекомых . Он воспроизводит звуковые волны, которые не воспринимаются ухом человека, но негативно действуют на шершней.
  12. Для истребления этих насекомых существуют магазинные химические инсектициды («Дихлофос», «Карбофос», «Раптор» и т. д.). Такое средство нужно распылить на внутреннюю часть полиэтиленового пакета, а затем надеть его на гнездо и закрепить с помощью скотча или ниток.

Important! Чтобы избежать укусов, все действия по избавлению от насекомых нужно проводить ночью. При этом необходимо использовать защитные перчатки, плотную одежду и сетку для лица.

Шершни являются очень интересными насекомыми, имеющими сложную кастовую иерархию. Из-за крупных размеров и наличия ядовитых желёз они могут представлять опасность для других насекомых и человека. Подробное описание шершней, представленное в данной статье, поможет лучше изучить образ жизни этих насекомых и эффективно избавиться от них при наличии угрозы.

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