Hornets are a group of large flying insects that are best known for their painful stings, which they can inflict multiple times. They are closely related to many other species of wasps, but despite their appearance and similar traits, they are not closely related to bees. There are more than 25 species of hornets and the largest of these species can grow to a length of 5.5 cm (2.2 in)! Each species has a different range and distribution.
Where do hornets live?
The vast majority of the hornet species live exclusively in the Northern Hemisphere. Most of these can be found in Asia with a few species found in Europe and other countries where they have been accidentally introduced. The best known hornet species are the European hornet, which is found throughout much of Europe, Russia and northern Asia. The European hornet is also the only true hornet that is found in the United States. However, it is an introduced species and is not native to the region. The other well known species of hornet is the Asian giant hornet, the largest hornet in the world, which is found in parts of Russia, Korea, China, Taiwan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and many countries in South-East Asia.
Did you know?
Some species of wasps are known as hornets in the United States, including the bald-faced hornet which is found throughout the North American continent. However, these species are not true hornets.
In 2004 the Asian predatory wasp, a species of hornet, became an invasive species in France. It is believed that the species entered the country in boxes of pottery from China!
The sting of a hornet is more painful than a bee or wasp sting. Some species of hornet are also highly venomous and multiple stings from these species can be fatal. To make matters worse hornets can also alert the rest of the nest to a threat, which can result in many more stings!