Why are Hornets dangerous?

Not many of us know  much about insects. All we know is mostly about bees. More specifically, honey bees. But did you know that there exist some insects, more vastly different and dreadful insects in nature? Let’s get to know them!

  • Hornets classification

First, let’s understand the classification of this organism in the biotic world. Naturally,the species belong to the kingdom Animalia ( animals) out of the five kingdom classification. They belong to the Phylum Arthropoda . The Class is Insects .There Family is  vespidae  and the Gene is  Vespa.

• What Are Hornets?

Hornets are basically classified as insects. How are honey bees different from hornets? If you notice, honey bees have a kind of fuzzy fur like structure. Whereas hornets are hairless. But then….how are Hornets different from wasps? Actually,hornets are one of the wasps but with a special condition. Meaning, all hornets come under the domain of wasps,but hornets have a special feature but not all wasps are hornets. (Confusing much? Oh I know!).  The special feature a hornet has is,they are much larger. Some even go somewhere around 5 cm!( maybe small for you but big enough  for them).Some of the features are similar, for example: They live in nests in a colony, they have a queen who can produce about 1000 eggs, they even have female worker hornets but she sadly cannot lay eggs because she is infertile. A larva of a hornet comes out of the eggs and slowly develops and evolves.

Hornets were actually, accidentally introduced in the 19th century.

  • Then…they are not dangerous…..right?

Hornets have killer stingers which they use to defend their nests from predators. Now these stingers are even more harmful to humans. Why? Because, these are not bees,who die after stinging their predator. Why do bees die after pricking you is because the stinger separates from their body, making them die. Unlike them, hornets can sting continuously because their stingers are very fine and do not get separated after stinging, making them prick you multiple times and trust me, that would not be a good experience. But…Why is the venom of a hornet harmful? Well,a single sting of a hornet is similar to any other wasp sting but,hornets usually, do not sting only once. Seriously,their main target is to just sting you to death. Which is why they continue to sting you even after you’ve died ,till they think that you’re no longer a threat to  their nests . The toxicity varies from different species of hornet, but as  they are going to sting you repeatedly, it’s equally fatal.They practically inject the venom into your body. Most commonly,hornet venom consists of about 5 percent acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a drug which targets your brain, skeletal muscles etc. Not only these, but it is estimated that the murder hornets( Giant Asian hornets) which are the biggest hornets in the world.They contain a neurotoxin called Mandara toxin which, if comes in contact with your bloodstream, initially destroys your RBCs. Though, if a single hornet stings you, you might necessarily not die but can get some minor or major allergic reactions.Doctors usually use epinephrine/adrenaline(https://eduindexnews.com/2020/09/12/what-exactly-is-adrenaline/)  for the treatment of these stings. The average death rate in Japan is about 30 to 50. 

Source:  Pinterest

  • But why do they sting

Now, you can’t completely blame them for thinking you as an intruder because they can’t help it. When you pass their nests, pheromones (hormones or hornets,you could say) are released inside the body of the hornets, which triggers the hornet to not let the intrude near the nest. Hornets prefer nests in burrows or somewhere near land. We all know sound transmits faster in solids. This makes pheromones trigger before you are inside the radius of their nest. They are extremely possessive about their nests and larvae and they get mobilized at once and then, they start to chase after the intruder. Even if a single hornet comes to chase you and let’s say, you even manage to swat it, probably with a stick, the insect will release pheromones which will attract the hornets towards you and they will not be in a good mood. No matter if it’s honeybees, or even their own Vespa species. They have active chemical inside them which increases their aggression. Hornets are not usually truculent at all. Infact they are naturally shy , peaceful creatures and avoid interaction.

They just can’t help but be protective about their nests when it comes to their nests. 

•What do they feed on?

Hornets basically love three things to eat. Firstly,anything which is sugary. Anything that contains any kind of sugars will attract hornets and eat them. They, sometimes even subside into an overripe fruit, when accidentally picked up by someone can again lead to hornet attacking. Secondly, they love saps of trees. They often make holes in the trees and sometimes, actually live in it. Usually they nibble on oak trees and some wild trees as well. Thirdly, they love protein. Proteins are said to be the building blocks for they help in building muscles. So even hornets love proteinecious foods. The includes everything that has proteins. Everything.

Photo by Petr Ganaj

  • Why are they harmful to honey bees?

As said before, hornets love sugary things,sap of the trees and protein sources. Honeybees have two of the sources which hornets love. One, the honey bees contain a a sugar called fructose. In fact, fructose is the most sweet sugar.  And two, they have a lot of proteins in their flesh. So ultimately, hornets invade the bee colonies quite often to satisfy their hunger. But bees are smart alright. There survival instinct is to vibrate in group. Now you might think that ‘Wait,they are going to be killed and the only thing that they can think of is vibrating!!!!??? The thing is, when these bees vibrate, it causes ‘quivering of their fiber muscles which is converted into heat energy. Now, you might be wondering, ‘Wait, what exactly is their intensions? Do the bees want to give the hornets an experience of sauna??!!!’  No. They actually use this as their survival tactic, because, hornets cannot survive.   And bees use this to kill them. Bees literally roast the hornets by vibrating in groups.

Hey!Anyone would be protective about their nests. Don’t blame them. They can’t even help it!

Fact:  Murder hornets(Giant Asian hornets can fly with a speed of 40 km/hr !!!!!

Categories: environment, Science