Greater Banded Hornet: Quick Guide to These Fascinating Insects

The Greater Banded Hornet is a fascinating and important insect species that plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of our ecosystem. As the world’s largest hornet, it has distinctive features and behaviors that set it apart from other hornet species. In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Greater Banded Hornet, including its physical characteristics, habitat, and the role it plays in our ecosystem.

These impressive insects can reach up to 2 inches in length, and have notable physical traits such as an orange head with prominent eyes and a black and orange or yellow striped abdomen. Typically, the Greater Banded Hornet builds large colonies that nest in the ground or tree cavities depending on the region they inhabit. Not only are they astonishing in appearance, but they also contribute to controlling pest populations and pollinating plants.

To further understand the Greater Banded Hornet, it’s essential to take an in-depth look at their diet, life cycle, and their interactions with other organisms. For instance, their diet primarily consists of other insects, making them beneficial to keep pest populations in check. Additionally, understanding their life cycle and behaviors can help us appreciate their role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Stay tuned as we dive into the captivating world of the Greater Banded Hornet.

Greater Banded Hornet Overview

The Greater Banded Hornet (Vespa tropica) is a species of wasp found in various regions such as Southern Asia, New Guinea, and West Africa. They are known for inhabiting forests and nesting in tree hollows or subterranean cavities.

These hornets build their nests in a sealed environment, maintaining a stable temperature. As part of the genus Vespa, they are related to other well-known wasp species. Greater Banded Hornets play a crucial ecological role as predators of dragonflies and other insects.

Key Features of Greater Banded Hornet:

  • Belongs to genus Vespa
  • Inhabits Southern Asia, New Guinea, and West Africa
  • Prefers forests, tree hollows, or subterranean cavities for nesting
  • Maintains a stable temperature within the nest

Comparison Table: Greater Banded Hornet vs. Asian Giant Hornet

Feature Greater Banded Hornet Asian Giant Hornet
Scientific Name Vespa tropica Vespa mandarinia
Distribution Southern Asia, New Guinea, West Africa Asia, Pacific Northwest
Habitat Forests, tree hollows, subterranean cavities Forests, low mountains, slopes
Ecological Role Predators of dragonflies and other insects Predators of honey bees and other insects

It is important to note that while the Greater Banded Hornet is invasive in some regions, it poses a significantly smaller threat to pollinators and ecosystems compared to the Asian Giant Hornet, also known as the “murder hornet.”

Remember to respect and conserve our environment and its diverse species whenever interacting with wildlife, such as the Greater Banded Hornet.

Physical Characteristics


The abdomen of the Greater Banded Hornet is banded with a yellow and black pattern, giving it a distinctive appearance.

  • Yellow: Bright bands
  • Black: Dark bands


Greater Banded Hornets possess large, translucent wings that enable them to fly and maneuver efficiently.

  • Wingspan: Varies depending on size
  • Function: Flight and maneuverability

Eyes and Antennae

Their eyes are large and brightly colored, allowing them to spot prey and navigate their environment.

  • Eye Color: Vibrant, often rust-colored
  • Antennae: Allow hornets to sense environment


These hornets are equipped with a stinger that they use for both defense and capturing prey.

  • Purpose: Defense and hunting
  • Danger: Can cause painful stings

Comparison Table:

Feature Details
Abdomen Yellow and black bands
Wings Large, translucent
Eyes Vibrant, rust-colored
Antennae Sensitive
Stingers Used for defense

Life Cycle and Behavior

Workers and Queens

  • Workers and queens play distinct roles in greater banded hornet colonies
  • Queens are responsible for laying eggs, while workers take care of the nest and forage for food

Nests and Colonies

Greater banded hornets create nests made of chewed wood fibers mixed with their saliva. These nests can be found in a variety of locations such as trees, shrubs, and even buildings.

  • Nests house multiple generations of hornets
  • Colonies consist of a single queen, many workers, and larvae

Preying on Honeybees

Greater banded hornets are predators of honeybees and may attack honeybee hives to obtain food.

  • They are known to be aggressive towards honeybee colonies
  • Hornets can cause significant damage to the honeybee population

Comparison Table: Greater Banded Hornets vs Honeybees

Feature Greater Banded Hornet Honeybee
Size Larger than honeybees Smaller than hornets
Colony Structure Single queen, many workers, and larvae Queen, workers, and drones
Nest Material Chewed wood fibers and saliva Beeswax
Diet Predatory, feed on honeybees and other insects Herbivorous, primarily feed on nectar and pollen
Aggressiveness Aggressive predators Defensive, typically not aggressive unless provoked

In summary, the life cycle and behavior of the greater banded hornet involves a colony structure with a queen, workers, and larvae. They build nests from chewed wood fibers and saliva, and are known to prey aggressively on honeybees.

Greater Banded Hornet and Human Interactions

Stings and Health Hazards

  • Stings: Greater Banded Hornet stings can be quite painful, given that they deliver venom through their stinger.
  • Allergies: Some people may experience allergies or severe reactions to the venom, which can lead to hospitalization.

For example, the elderly are particularly vulnerable to stings and may suffer complications, such as difficulty breathing and a rapid drop in blood pressure, requiring immediate medical attention.

Impact on Gardens and Environment

  • Nests: Greater Banded Hornets build nests that can disrupt human activity in gardens and surrounding areas, leading to potential encounters and stings.
  • Garden plants: These hornets can sometimes be beneficial by preying on pest insects found in gardens, thereby helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

However, their efforts can inadvertently lead to the destruction of beneficial insects as well. In certain cases, such as their impact on Guam’s native ecosystems, the full consequences of their presence are yet to be determined1.

Here is a comparison table highlighting the pros and cons of Greater Banded Hornets in gardens:

Pros Cons
Prey on pest insects Can sting humans
Balance ecosystem Attack beneficial insects

In conclusion, Greater Banded Hornets have notable interactions with humans, impacting both our health and gardens. Awareness of their stings, potential allergic reactions, and impact on the environment is essential to foster a harmonious coexistence.

Notable Species and Relatives

Asian Giant Hornet

The Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the largest hornet species in the world, with queens measuring up to 2 inches. They are known for their potent sting and aggressive behavior. Found in East Asia, these hornets are a significant threat to honeybees due to their predatory nature.

  • Features:
    • Largest hornet species
    • Potent sting
    • Aggressive behavior

Japanese Giant Hornet

A subspecies of the Asian Giant Hornet, the Japanese Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia japonica) is native to Japan. They are similarly aggressive and a threat to honeybees. They can cause severe allergic reactions in humans when stung.

  • Characteristics:
    • Subspecies of Asian Giant Hornet
    • Predatory nature
    • Severe stings

Oriental Hornet

The Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientalis) can be identified by its distinct yellow and brown coloration. Found in parts of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe, this species is less aggressive compared to the Asian Giant Hornet.

  • Features:
    • Yellow and brown coloration
    • Less aggressive

European Hornet

The European Hornet (Vespa crabro) is native to Europe and Asia but has been introduced to North America. This species is more docile when compared to the Asian and Japanese Giant Hornets, but they can still deliver a painful sting.

  • Characteristics:
    • Found in Europe, Asia, North America
    • More docile
    • Painful sting
Feature Asian Giant Hornet Japanese Giant Hornet Oriental Hornet European Hornet
Size Largest Large Medium Medium
Behavior Aggressive Aggressive Less aggressive Docile
Predatory nature Yes Yes No No
Impact on honeybees High High Low Low
Potential harm to humans Severe Severe Moderate Moderate

Greater Banded Hornet Management and Control

Established Techniques

The control and management of Greater Banded Hornets involve a combination of methods to ensure the safety of humans and minimize damage to other pollinators like honey bees. Established techniques for controlling hornets include:

  • Pesticides: Applying chemical treatments to the hornet nests to eliminate the colony.
  • Physical removal: Engaging professional pest control companies to remove nests.

However, each approach has its pros and cons:

Method Pros Cons
Pesticides Effective in killing the colony May harm other pollinators
Physical removal Environmentally friendly Requires professional expertise


Hornet traps can be effective in capturing individual hornets or small groups. Some common types of hornet traps include:

  • Bait traps: Using sweet substances to lure hornets into a trap where they cannot escape.
  • Water traps: Filling a container with soapy water and a sweet bait to drown captured hornets.

Providing specific examples of each trap type:

Reporting Sightings

Citizens play an important role in Greater Banded Hornet management. If you suspect a hornet sighting or nest, contact local pest control companies or wildlife authorities immediately.

For example, in the United States, the National Pesticide Information Center can provide guidance on who to contact in your region.

Greater Banded Hornet in Other Delimitation

The Greater Banded Hornet is an impressive insect species found throughout Asia and the Pacific. Let’s explore its existence in various locations:

  • Japan: In Japan, Greater Banded Hornets are seen mostly in rural areas. They are known to attack honey bee nests but have limited impact on ecosystems1.
  • Hong Kong, India, Philippines, and Singapore: Greater Banded Hornets are common in these countries. Their behavior is similar to other hornet species2.
  • Hawaii: Although not native to Hawaii, the hornet is considered an invasive species there3.
  • Guam: The Greater Banded Hornet has been discovered in Guam, where its impact on native ecosystems is yet to be determined4.
  • Europe: As of now, it’s not found in Europe5.

Comparison Table

Location Presence Impact on Ecosystem
Japan Yes Limited
Hong Kong Yes Similar to other hornet species
India Yes Similar to other hornet species
Philippines Yes Similar to other hornet species
Singapore Yes Similar to other hornet species
Hawaii Invasive species Disruptive
Guam Newly discovered Yet to be determined
Europe No Not applicable

Key Features

  • Large size
  • Bold black and yellow stripes
  • Powerful sting


  • Aggressive behavior
  • Can destroy honey bee nests
  • Distinctive loud buzzing sound

Experts and Educational Institutions

Entomologists like Ross Miller and Aubrey Moore have actively conducted research about the Greater Banded Hornet. They are both affiliated with the University of Guam, specifically the College of Natural and Applied Sciences (CNAS).

Greater Banded Hornets are of interest to various organizations, such as the Guam Department of Agriculture and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. These institutions offer valuable resources for researchers, students, children, and anyone interested in learning more about these insects.

Here’s a comparison table between the responsibilities of different entities:

Entity Responsibility
Entomologists Conduct research on Greater Banded Hornets
University of Guam Provide expertise and research facilities
Guam Department of Agriculture Monitor and control invasive hornet species
USDA APHIS Regulate and protect agriculture from pests

Greater Banded Hornets have some unique features:

  • Large size
  • Distinctive black and yellow bands
  • Eusocial behavior

The hornets’ characteristics include:

  • Aggressive when defending hives
  • Predatory nature
  • Efficient foragers for nectar and other insects

Studying Greater Banded Hornets provides several benefits:

  • Better understanding of their role in ecosystems
  • Improved pest management strategies
  • New insights into hornet biology

However, some potential drawbacks include:

  • Potential for disrupting existing ecosystems
  • Difficulties in controlling invasive species

In conclusion, understanding the Greater Banded Hornet requires collaboration between educational institutions, researchers, and students. By studying these insects, we can find ways to manage and protect our natural environment.


  1. Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) and Yellow-Legged Hornet (Vespa velutina) potential pests of honey bees 2

  2. (

  3. (

  4. (

  5. (

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Lesser Banded Hornet from Singapore


Large Orange-Black Carrion Fly in Singapore
Location: Singapore (southwest)
August 4, 2011 5:36 am
Hello bugman !
I saw several of these large, black & bright orange, wasp-like flies feeding on a dead frog in a dried-out ditch. The orange coloration covers half of the insect’s abdomen. I’m thinking that it resembles some kind of Mydas sp. — except that there is so much orange, & the abdomen is broader (more bee-like).
* Date: 21 July 2011 (around 5:50pm)
* Ambient Temperature: 29-30 deg C
* Season: Year-round Summer
* Weather: Hot & sunny during the past few days
…  A few days later, I spotted several individuals of the same type of fly again amongst some grasses at a reservoir, although I didn’t see any carrion nearby. May I know the ID of the said fly ? Thanks !
Signature: pyjstein

Lesser Banded Hornet

Dear pyjstein,
This is not a fly.  The reason it resembles a wasp is that it is the Greater Banded Hornet,
Vespa tropica, which according to the Clubsnap Forum on Wasps webpage we found, is:  “one of the biggest and more common hornets in Singapore. This species is a predator on nests of other social wasps and bees. In fact, I believe that if you leave that nest alone, it is only a matter of time before these hornets attack and wipe the colony out, driving the adults away and capturing all larvae and pupae to feed their own offspring. A colony of these hornets in tropical areas like Singapore may well have to attack 500 or more colonies of paper wasps or honeybees throughout its lifespan!”  The site also contains these tips on photographing Wasps and Hornets:  “Three actions are most threatening to wasps and a sure way of getting stung: Approaching the nest too closely (every species has a different tolerance radius, and the wasps you photographed will tolerate approach with a mere inch of the nest), fast and sudden movement and breathing or blowing on the nest. As long as these are avoided, you’ll be fine around wasps.”  The abdomen on your specimen contains two orange segments, while all of the individuals on this Vespa tropica webpage have only one orange band.  We suspect this is merely color variation within a species and that it is not indicative of being a different species.

Lesser Banded Hornet

Ed. Note:  Oops, our mistake.
We continued to read the
Vespa tropica webpage, and we discovered this:  “In most parts of its range, Vespa tropica can easily be distinguished from Vespa affinis by its larger size and the distribution of the yellow band on the abdomen; the yellow band covers the first and second segments in Vespa affinis, but only the second in Vespa tropica.”  We then visited the Vespa affiniswebpage and learned this smaller hornet is called the Lesser Banded Hornet.

Lesser Banded Hornets

Letter 2 – Greater Banded Hornet from India


Subject: What’s this bug
Location: Coorg hills, India
October 3, 2013 5:45 am
I got stung by this, please identify it
Signature: YC

Unknown Hornet
Greater Banded Hornet

Dear YC,
After some time searching, we believe we have correctly identified your Greater Banded Hornet,
Vespa tropica, thanks to images posted on BlogSpot and TrekNature which states:  “This species is a subterranean wasp. Adults are medium to large sized, dark brown to black and yellowish orange marked on the gaster. This species is very similar to Vespa affinis, but easily distinguished from the latter by bright yellow or yellow orange at the second gastral segment.”


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

    View all posts

5 thoughts on “Greater Banded Hornet: Quick Guide to These Fascinating Insects”

  1. Thanks so much for the speedy species ID ! I’d mistakenly thought those were carrion bugs feeding on the dead toad, until you guys enlightened me that those are in fact hornets. And my video footage does bear this out — the hornets were preying on the carrion flies (not the toad).

    I have checked out the taxonomy, & the type commonly found in Singapore & Peninsular Malaysia is the subspecies Vespa affinis indosinensis — which is distinguished by its brilliant-orange 1st & 2nd abdominal segments on an otherwise fully-black body.

    Vespa affinis — the species form that is common to NE Asia — appears to have a mostly black body, but a reddish-brown head & thorax, as well as yellow abdominal segments.

  2. Dear Administrators of WhatsThatBug.

    I know that this post is several years old, though I wanted to try and confirm something. I am currently living in Cyprus, where I came a across a Bug that was extremely similar to the one shown above, the Vespa Affinis. Is it possible that some migrated, accidentally or naturally, to the Mediterranean? If not, is it possible that there are other types of Hornets, very similar, with the top part of their tail (Not really sure on the whole scientific Jargon here) being Orange to yellow-ish, and the rest being still entirely Black?

    Thank you very much for your response.

    • This is not a rare color pattern among hornets, and there may be a species native to Cyprus with similar markings and coloration.

  3. Dear Administrators of WhatsThatBug.

    I know that this post is several years old, though I wanted to try and confirm something. I am currently living in Cyprus, where I came a across a Bug that was extremely similar to the one shown above, the Vespa Affinis. Is it possible that some migrated, accidentally or naturally, to the Mediterranean? If not, is it possible that there are other types of Hornets, very similar, with the top part of their tail (Not really sure on the whole scientific Jargon here) being Orange to yellow-ish, and the rest being still entirely Black?

    Thank you very much for your response.

  4. There are many vespa tropica round my my place of residence in Singapore, I have had them fly inside a few times also. They are alarmingly large and the stinger is huge (I’ve examined a dead one). For some reason there is very little information about them in Singapore online, they are not even listed in the Singapore National Parks site. (,-a-,-wasps) . Its almost like there is a cover-up of this potentially dangerous insect.


Leave a Comment