Hornets in Winter

Overwintering Hornet

Overwintering Hornet

Most people in Indiana are familiar with the large hornet nests that can be seen dangling from trees; exposed when the trees lose their leaves in fall. During the cold windy winter, the nest is abandoned. Without a colony to repair it, the nest falls apart. The queens produced by the colony will mate in the fall and shelter in a protected place. They do not emerge until spring when temperatures are warm enough to support a steady supply of insect prey.

Yesterday, 4/25/2014 I opened a log and found this hornet, not yet ready to leave the shelter and start a new colony. My disturbance and the warm air awoke this queen prematurely. Overwintering queens produce substances such as glycerol to prevent freezing. In spring, the anti-freeze is metabolized and converted into other molecules that provide energy to start a new colony.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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