The oriental hornet is an indigenous wasp that can be found in southern Europe and North Africa, the Middle East and further east as far as
It has also been introduced in other countries such as Nepal Mexico, Madagascar
and parts of . In central and northern China Europe
it is replaced by the common hornet.
Specimens can be anything between 25 and 35 mm long. Compared to other local wasps the oriental hornet is relatively large although it is dwarfed by tropical species such as the giant Asian hornet.
The large size of the hornet can be frightening. If they feel that their nest is threatened by an animal or person moving within two or three metres of their nest they will sting but otherwise they are safe and they have been called the gentle giants.
A single hornet can sting multiple times and although the sting may be painful, for those who are not allergic to bee and wasp venom, their sting is not more dangerous than that of the honey bee.
Up to fifty or sixty years ago hornets were relatively common in
and Gozo. It then started to decrease probably because of a number of factors
foremost amongst which was human persecution. Country people used to destroy
its nests whenever they met them. Malta
A friend of mine who is in his seventies recalls helping his father to stuff the opening of a nest with paper and setting them on fire to destroy the colony. Such an attitude is not restricted solely to the Maltese islands. In parts of
the common hornet has decreased and in some areas it is endangered. Hornets are
probably the only insects that have become endangered because of human
Luckily this species did not become extinct in the Maltese islands. A small number of colonies continued to exist in Gozo and one or two colonies survived in
. In the past few years the
number of colonies in Malta
started to increase with colonies established in new localities. Malta
This summer some local media gave sensational coverage to the discovery of a colony in
which led to its destruction.
It is a pity that such attitudes continue to exist in this day and age. In some
parts of Europe including Germany hornets are legally protected and one may not
destroy or damage a nest without permission from the competent authorities. Malta
This article was published in the Times of Malta on 11 December 2015.