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European hornet - Vespa crabro
European hornet - Vespa crabro

European hornet
The European hornet (Vespa crabro) is also known as the giant hornet, the old world hornet or the brown hornet. This species belongs to the family Vespidae, in the order Hymenoptera, the suborder Apocrita, the superfamily Vespoidea, the subfamily Vespinae and the genus hornets (Vespa). There are several sub-species of Vespra crabro, for example: Vespa crabro crabro, Vespa crabro germana, Vespa crabro vexator, Vespa crabro crabroniformis, Vespa crabro borealis, Vespa crabro oberthuri, Vespa crabro flavofasciata, Vespa crabro altaica, Vespa crabro caspica and Vespa crabro chinensis.
Vespa crabro - Side view
Vespa crabro - Side view
The european hornet is found throughout the Palearctic zone and in the USA. Vespa crabro crabro and Vespa crabro germana are only found in Central Europe. In some regions of Germany the european hornet has disappeared and therefore this species is protected by law.
Vespinae - European hornet
Vespinae - European hornet
Vespa crabro reproduce once a year. As a social wasp, it counts among the colony building insects. The colony has a life span of one year. The population comprises 100 to 700 (in extreme cases up to 1000) hornets.
The queen european hornet, is 25-35 mm in length, the female workers, 15-25 mm, and the drones 20-30 mm. The crown of the head and the cheeks are a reddish-copper colou. The face is without markings. While the antennae of the drones comprises 13 segments, those of the females have only 12 segments. The eyes of the hornet are clearly visible and appear in the shape of a "C". The thorax and abdomen of european hornets are hairy. The upper surface of the chest (thorax) of the subspecies Vespa crabro crabro is dark coloured in the middle, while the subspecies Vespa crabro germana have a narrow red marking shaped like a "V" on their Mesoscutum. The abdomen has the typical black-brown/yellow colouration of wasps, and comprises 7 segments in the drones, 6 segments in the females. which besides is fitted with with 2 numbers of similar dripped designs, The females have a poisonous sting at the end of their abdomens; the drones lack this sting but have, in its place, sex organs. The wings of the european hornet are reddish-orange in colour. A characteristic feature of this insect (apart from the body size) is the deep humming tone produced when flying.
Due to its appearance the european hornet can be confused with some other flying insects, for instance, the hornet mimic hoverfly (Volucella zonaria), the moths Sesia bembeciformis and Sesia apiformis, as well as some members of the family Cimbicidae. Vespa crabro are easily confused with oriental hornets (Vespa orientalis), and the female workers look very similar to the queen of the median wasp (Dolichovespula media).
Female worker european hornets live for 3-4 weeks, drones,1-2 months, and the queen, up to 14 months. The queen, is the only member of the colony who overwinters. In the middle of April she leaves her hiding place and at the beginning of May,starts to establish a new nest. To this end she first builds a honeycomb, which she covers with a paper-like mass made from chewed wood. The queen lays fertilized eggs in this honeycomb. After the larvae have hatched the queen takes care of the brood, feeding the larvae with insects and spiders until they pupate in early June. These larvae will become the female workers. As soon as the young female workers have left their pupae, they take over nearly all activities of the queen, who then almost exclusively lays eggs, up to 40 a day in late summer. With strong heat the female workers move their wings, in order to cooling of the nest and thus to save the brood from too much heat.
A hierarchy develops amongst the female workers of the new hornet colony which resembles the pecking order amongst chickens and this can create aggression, which leads to more or less heavy fighting between individual female workers. When this happens workers may sting each other resulting in deaths. If the population of the nest expands greatly and there is no room for further development all the hornets move to a more suitable place and establish a new nest (branch formation).
Humans pose the greatest threat to the european hornet; they kill hornets out of stupidness, senselessness, superstition and quite often deliberately, and they destroy their biotopes. The bee moth (Aphomia sociella) is a parasite of the european hornet. Its larvae cover the honeycombs with webs and eat the brood beneath.
The rove beetle (Velleius dilatatus) is a constant co-inhabitant in the hornet nest. Its stay does not unfavorably affect the population of the nest.

Description of images / photos
Photography with Cameras
Nikon D3x, Nikon D300, Canon 50D
Image editing with Photoshop
1. European hornet - Vespa crabro
2. Vespa crabro - Side view
3. Vespinae - European hornet
Sources, links and more informations
European hornet in Wikipedia
Protection of hornets
Hornets (Family) in Wikipedia
German Flag Hornisse
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