Massive Menacing Bee
April 26, 2010
I had heard a buzzing at my window but didn’t think anything of it, but a few minutes later, I was called to the window to view an amazing bee!
It had a yellow- and black-striped abdomen along with a largely red head, and was well over 2 inches long (maybe 3). It was quite the bee. What on earth is it?
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Because of its size and the time of year, we are guessing that this European Hornet, Vespa crabro, is a Queen. The species was introduced from Germany and is not established in the Eastern parts of North America. BugGuide has a photo, also from Georgia, that looks quite close. BugGuide explains the life cycle: “Paper nest is built in hollow trees, or in human structures such as attics. Adults come to lights at night, perhaps seeking prey? Queens emerge from hibernation during the spring, and they search for a suitable location in which to start a new nest. They 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. The workers capture insects, bringing them back to the nest to feed the brood. 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. The nest reaches 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.“