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- The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex, which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters.
- The best known species is the European hornet, about 2–3.5 cm in length, widely distributed throughout Europe, Russia, North America and Northeast Asia.
- Most species make exposed nests in trees and shrubs, but some build their nests underground or in other cavities.
- In Vespa crabro, the nest is founded in spring by a fertilized female known as the queen.
- In the case of tropical species, life histories may well differ, and in species with both tropical and temperate distributions, it is conceivable that the cycle depends on latitude.
- The common European hornet is the best-known species, widely distributed in Europe, in North China and also the only species introduced to North America, Ukraine and European Russia.
- The Asian giant hornet lives in the Primorsky Krai region of Russia, China, Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Indochina, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, but is most commonly found in the mountains of Japan, where they are commonly known as the Giant Sparrow Bee.
- Hornet stings are more painful to humans than typical wasp stings because hornet venom contains a large amount of acetylcholine.
- In the case of the Asian giant hornet this is also used to mobilize many workers at once when attacking colonies of their prey, honey bees.
- In the European hornet the major compound of the alarm pheromone is 2-methyl-3-butene-2-ol.
- If a hornet is killed near a nest it may release pheromone which can cause the other hornets to attack.
- While taxonomically well-defined, there may be some confusion about the differences between hornets and other wasps of the family Vespidae, specifically the yellowjackets, which are members of the same subfamily.
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