What Are Hornets?
If you like hornets, you must be a bird because hardly anyone loves these aggressive bees. Technically, hornets are a type of wasp and closely related to yellow jackets. China and Japan are home to the Asian giant hornet, which is 2 inches long with a 3-inch wingspan. The Asian giants are known as “yak killers” which should give you an idea of dangers posed by these intensely predatory stinging monsters. In China’s Shaanxi province, in the summer of 2013 alone, the giant hornets killed 41 people and injured 1,675.
Fortunately, North Americans don’t have to worry about dying from attacks by colossal hornets. But American hornets will aggressively defend their hives. Hornet stingers contain a larger amount of venom than typical bees and are more painful. Anyone allergic to bee stings will experience a dangerous reaction that requires a fast trip to the emergency room. In addition, an individual hornet can sting multiple times and survive, unlike honeybees which die after stinging a victim once.
There’s more bad news about hornet stings. The hornets like to build their hives under the eaves and rafters of houses, garages, and outbuildings. If a hive is disturbed, a single hornet can mobilize the entire colony to come out stinging. This is a result of an attack pheromone that can also be released if a hornet is killed anywhere near the hive. In colder climes, hornet nests are abandoned in winter, which is a good time to remove a hive, first making sure it is truly uninhabited.
Hornets love sweets and are often found feeding on the sap of oak trees or on rotting fruits near a backyard tree. The bees are also predators that help the environment by killing flies and other pesky insects. This might by small consolation to someone under hornet attack, but the best advice is to leave them alone. Hornets will only hunt you if you start something, and that is a buzz that you can live without.