Oriental Hornet: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

The Oriental hornet is a fascinating species of social wasp found primarily in the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, and across Northern and Central Asia. These insects have a vibrant yellow and black striped pattern on their abdomen, and while they may have a somewhat fearsome appearance, they are not typically aggressive toward humans unless their nest is disturbed.

These hornets build large, paper-like nests in dark, sheltered areas like tree cavities, attics, or beneath building overhangs. They are known for their highly organized and cooperative behavior, working together to hunt for prey such as caterpillars, flies, and other insects. Additionally, Oriental hornets play an essential role in maintaining a balanced ecosystem through their pest-controlling activities.

Oriental Hornet Overview

Identification

The Oriental Hornet, or Vespa orientalis, is a species of hornet known for its distinct appearance. Some key features include:

  • Yellow and brown striped abdomen
  • Yellow bands that extend to the tip of the abdomen
  • Similar in size to the European Hornet1

Native Range

Oriental Hornets have a native range across various regions:

  • Southwest Asia
  • Northeast Africa
  • Eastern Mediterranean

These hornets are prevalent in several countries like Israel, Iran, and Turkey2.

Seasonal Colonies

In each year involving Oriental Hornet colonies, specific time periods follow:

  • April: Queens emerge from hibernation and search for nesting sites
  • May to August: Worker hornets collect food and maintain the nest
  • September to November: New queens and drones mate before hibernation3

Lifecycle and Behavior

Queen and Workers

The Oriental Hornet (V. orientalis) has a social structure with a queen and workers. The queen is the main reproductive female, while workers are non-reproductive females responsible for various tasks in the colony like foraging and caring for larvae. They also have a role in defending the hive from potential threats, such as honey bees and other pollinators.

Hive Construction

Oriental hornets build their hives using chewed wood fibers mixed with saliva to create a papery material. Hives are usually constructed in sheltered areas, such as tree hollows, rock crevices, or even man-made structures.

Features of Oriental Hornet hives:

  • Composed of papery material
  • Built in sheltered areas
  • Multi-tiered, with cells for larvae and storage

Mating and Reproduction

In the life cycle of the Oriental hornet, mating and reproduction occur towards the end of the active season. New queens and males are produced, leaving the hive to mate. After mating, males die, and the fertilized queens seek out safe locations to overwinter.

Characteristic Oriental Hornet
Seasonal colonies Yes
Reproductive individuals New queens and males
Mating location Outside hive
Overwintering Fertilized queens only
Workers Non-reproductive females

Oriental Hornet and Humans

Sting and Medical Concerns

The Oriental hornet’s sting can be painful and contains venom that can cause an allergic reaction. In rare cases, a sting may even lead to anaphylactic shock. For those not experiencing an allergic reaction, common symptoms include:

  • Localized pain and swelling
  • Redness around the sting site

Beneficial Aspects

Oriental hornets benefit humans in various ways:

  • Prey on many agricultural pests, reducing their population
  • Aid in pollination of plants while foraging for nectar

Control and Management

Protecting yourself and managing Oriental hornet populations can be achieved through the following methods:

  1. Wear protective clothing when in areas with known hornet activity
  2. Avoid disturbing their nests
  3. Keep trash cans sealed and avoid leaving food out — like sugary drinks — to minimize attracting them
  4. Professionally eradicate nests as a last resort

Comparison Table

Features Oriental Hornet Common Wasp
Sting and Venom Painful sting with venom; can cause allergies Painful sting with venom; can cause allergies
Allergic Reactions Possible allergic reactions; anaphylactic shock Possible allergic reactions; anaphylactic shock
Beneficial Aspects Pest control and pollination Pest control and pollination
Control and Management Protective clothing, avoid nests, clean outdoors Protective clothing, avoid nests, clean outdoors

Interaction with Other Species

Predation and Defense Mechanisms

The Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientalis) is a predator, feeding on various insects, particularly honeybees. It has powerful mandibles used for capturing and crushing its prey. To protect itself from other predators, it employs a painful sting loaded with venom.

Impact on Bee and Pollinator Populations

  • Bee population: Oriental Hornets are known to attack bee colonies and can have a negative impact on their populations. They target honeybees as their primary source of food, often decimating hives within a short period.
  • Pollinator populations: The aggressive behavior of Oriental Hornets towards bees could lead to a ripple effect on pollinator populations, causing issues in plant pollination and agricultural productivity.

Invasive and Native Species Interactions

Oriental Hornets are native to parts of the Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, and Northern Africa. However, they can become invasive when introduced to new environments. Interactions with native species may vary:

  • Competition: Oriental Hornets may compete with native species, such as other bees and hornets, for resources like food and nesting sites.
  • Predation: As predators, they can reduce native insect populations, potentially leading to ecological imbalance.
Species Habitat Predatory Behavior Impact on Pollinators
Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientalis) Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, Northern Africa Predatory on honeybees and other insects Negative impact on bee and pollinator populations
Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) Southern and Eastern Asia Predatory on honeybees and other insects Severe impact on bee populations with potential to devastate entire hives

As seen in the comparison table above, both Oriental Hornets and Asian Giant Hornets pose threats to bee populations. Their predatory behavior can lead to negative consequences for pollinator populations and ultimately affect ecosystems and agriculture.

Oriental Hornet Research and Conservation

Oriental Hornet vs. Asian Giant Hornet

The Oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis) and the Asian giant hornet (or Japanese giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia) are two different species. Key differences include:

  • Size: Oriental hornets are typically smaller
  • Geographical range: Oriental hornets are found in the Middle East, eastern Mediterranean, and northern Africa, while Asian giant hornets are native to Asia.
Feature Oriental Hornet Asian Giant Hornet
Size Smaller Larger
Range Middle East, Eastern Mediterranean, Northern Africa Asia

Cuticle and Yellow Bands Research

Scientists have studied the yellow bands on the Oriental hornet’s cuticle. These bands contain:

  • Xanthopterin, a pigment responsible for the hornet’s yellow color
  • A capability to convert light into energy, similar to a solar cell.

Responsibilities of Entomologists and Conservationists

Entomologists and conservationists work together to:

  • Study the biology and behavior of Oriental hornets
  • Monitor and control populations, if needed
  • Preserve and protect the habitat of Oriental hornets
  • Educate the public about the importance of these insects in the ecosystem.

Footnotes

  1. Oriental Hornets – Army

  2. Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) and Yellow-Legged Hornet (Vespa …

  3. Northern Giant Hornets – Penn State Extension

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com 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 – Oriental Hornet in Pompeii

 

Subject:  Scary looking bug
Geographic location of the bug:  In ancient Pompeii
Date: 08/11/2018
Time: 08:52 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Have seen quite a few of these on holiday in Italy. This particular one is in the ruins of Pompeii but many were not. Could you attempt to identify I’d be interested to know what it is
How you want your letter signed:  George

Oriental Hornet

Dear George,
When we searched for Hornet sightings in Pompeii, we found this FlickR posting of an Oriental Hornet,
Vespa orientalis.  According to Encyclopedia of Life, the Oriental Hornet:  “is a social insect of the Vespidae family. It can be found in Southwest Asia, Northeast Africa, the island of Madagascar, and parts of Southern Europe. Oriental hornets have also been found in a few isolated locations such as Mexico due to human introduction. The Oriental hornet lives in seasonal colonies consisting of caste system dominated by a queen. The hornet builds its nests underground and communicates using sound vibrations. The hornet has a yellow stripe on its cuticle (exoskeleton) which can absorb sunlight to generate a small electrical potential, and it has been suggested that this might help supply energy for digging. The adult hornet eats nectar and fruits and scavenges for insects and animal proteins to feed to their young. Because they are scavengers, the hornets may also serve as a transmitter of disease following consumption infected plants. The hornets are a primary pest to honey bees, attacking bee colonies to obtain honey and animal proteins. The sting of an Oriental hornet can be quite painful to humans and some humans are allergic to stings.

Letter 2 – Oriental Hornet in Turkey

 

Vespa orientalis – Oriental Hornet
November 19, 2009
Epheseus, Turkey — Vespid found wandering about in front of a nest of its compatriots in a crack between some rocks. Seemed unable to fly. Identified as Oriental Hornet. May be male?
Kris Fricke
Epheseus, Turkey

Oriental Hornet
Oriental Hornet

Hi Kris,
We agree that this is an Oriental Hornet.  There does not appear to be a stinger, and the antennae are long, indicators that this is probably a male or drone.  We will see if Eric Eaton can confirm the sex of the individual.

Oriental Hornet
Oriental Hornet

Update from Eric Eaton
Daniel
think the hornet is a female, based on males I have seen of Vespa crabro….
Eric

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com 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

1 thought on “Oriental Hornet: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide”

  1. eeeeeeeeeee
    holding a female hornet
    IN YOUR HAND!
    AUGH!

    Those things would be cute if they didn’t inflict horrible pain.

    Reply

Leave a Comment