Although many people consider hornets to be a separate insect species , they are, in fact, the largest type of wasp. Like wasps, they are a members of the Vespa insect species . They are distinguished from other wasps by their large vortex, i.e. the space between their two eyes. Their stings are painful, and their nests are generally found in trees shrubs and under eaves. Fortunately for man, they are usually found in out of the way places.
Hornets do not generally attack humans, and will only sting when they or their nests are threatened. If a hornet perceives it is under attack or that its nest is under attack, it will respond viciously. While wasps generally threaten by flying around the head of their victim, hornets go right for the target, in dive bomb fashion. Their sting is more painful than a bee, yellow jacket or wasp.
Notably, hornets have a signaling capability so that when an individual hornet or nest is threatened; the entire colony will come out against the intruder. This can cause fatalities to victims of multiple hornet stings.
Should you accidentally come upon a wasp nest, it is important to proceed with caution, so as to avoid triggering a swarm attack. The following suggestions will help you to minimize your danger. Don’t make a loud noise. Don’t make a movement toward the nest with your body or arm. Don’t breathe on the nest or breathe on a hornet. Don’t prevent a hornet from returning to its nest. Do not try and break apart a hornet’s nest. Even if you are following instructions, don’t try to remove a hornet’s nest during the day, when hornets are most active. If you are stung by a hornet don’t panic, as a sudden move might trigger a swarm attack. Rather slowly move away from the nest.
More feared than the sting of a single hornet, is the insects ability to respond to a series of signal pheromones, which can trigger a mass hornet attack. The pheromones are released, either from the body of a dead or crushed hornet, or via chemicals released when a hornet stings a victim. The pheromone signaling alerts members of the nest that a source of food, e.g. a local bee hive, is near, or else a perceived intruder is approaching. In either case the powerful chemical attraction mobilizes any hornet in the area to come and join the attack.
Due to the signaling system, it is always unwise to kill a solitaryhornet when found outside. The smell released from the crushed body will attract a horde of hornets, which will come out en masse against the hornet killer.
The pheromone chemicals found in hornet venom are also found in certain food flavorings, which can likewise trigger a hornet attack if they are taken on a picnic. Certain flavorings in bananas and oranges attract hornets. Other foods containing these natural flavorings attract hornets. Certain citrus scented products attract hornets, as well as certain volatile chemicals and perfumes. Because pheromones pare owerful at even small concentrations, wearing clothing or gloves that have been stung by hornets or worn while killing hornets, may attract a hornet attack if parts of the hornetwere smeared into the cloth.
Despite the potential danger of attack, it is important to keep in mind that hornets are not intrinsically aggressive towards humans, if you happen to see one or a nest, follow the recommendations provided in the report and don’t provoke them to attack.