I found a hornet nest this morning, in an old woodpecker’s oak tree hole. Hornets are beneficial insects.
The main difference between wasps and hornets is their size. Hornets are larger than wasps, which is one of the main reasons why they scare some people; but hornets are really quite docile, shy creatures. Another difference is the colour. Wasps which are usually yellow and black, hornets are more orangey-red, although this does vary with each species. I think the face of a hornet is more scary than the smaller wasp, although the hornet is a wasp too.
The queen is the only member of the hornet colony that reproduces. Most hornets in the colony are workers. The worker hornets make the nest (after it has been started by the queen and the workers have developed from the eggs that she laid). Workers also feed the young and protect the colony from danger. The males mate with new queens and die soon afterwards. There are only a few males in a colony.
This is how a hornet nest occurs: The European hornet queen makes the first cells of the nest and lays a fertilized egg in each one. Around five to eight days later, the eggs hatch into larvae or grubs.
The queen feeds the larvae a paste made of her saliva and insects that she has chewed. She continues to make new cells and to lay eggs.
At about two weeks of age, each larva makes a silk cap to fit over the top of its cell. Inside the sealed cell the larva turns into a pupa.
Inside the pupa, the young hornet changes into an adult worker bee. The worker then emerges from its cell and takes over the jobs of building the nest and feeding the larvae.
The larvae release a sweet secretion to feed the workers. The secretion contains amino acids and sugars. It provides the workers with energy and encourages them to keep feeding the grubs.
Once enough workers have emerged from the pupae, the queen’s sole job is to lay eggs.
European hornets fly during the night as well as during the day to collect food.