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The Buzz is Worse Than the Bite - Usually

September 3, 2020
Cicada Killer Wasp near Ruler

Cicada killer wasp, Crabonidae: Sphecius speciosus

The whole country was abuzz a few months ago when reports of Asian giant hornets hit the media. The news story was evidently a good one because it reverberated from print to broadcast to internet and back again. It was one of those stories that captured people’s interest immediately – and what’s more, people remembered it, at least the sensational part of the story, that is.

It was their huge size (reportedly in excess of 2 inches in length), robust bodies, menacing look, complete with aggressive reputation and sinister name that really made the story memorable.

Hornets, like honeybees and yellowjacket wasps, exhibit an advanced behavior that we call sociality. Social insect societies are almost exclusively female (a very few reproductive queens and many non-reproductive females, called workers, with a sprinkling of males here and there, just for entertainment). Less than 2% of insect species have evolved this remarkable level of social complexity but have become amazingly successful because of it. By working together or dividing the labor, social insects gain improved foraging, achieve higher reproduction rates and create more effective defenses.

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