The Oriental hornet Vespa orientalis, is a hornet which looks very similar to the European hornet. It should not be confused with the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia).
It is commonly found in the Sub-Mediterranean area, but can also be found in Madagascar, United Arab Emirates and India. However, due to human introduction, its habitat is beginning to spread to South America up to Mexico.
The female queen measures 25 to 35 mm long; males and workers are smaller.
In males, the antennae have 13 segments, while females always have 12.
In 2010 a team of researchers from Israeli and British universities discovered that the yellow stripe in the hornet’s abdomen is capable of harvesting the sun’s light and converting it into energy. In fact, the main metabolic activity occurs in that yellow pigment layer (i.e. the sun may be its main energy source). The process is made possible by a pigment called xanthopterin. This might explain why the insects are more active during intense sunlight, unlike most hornets
The Oriental Hornet as a Solar Battery
One Dr. Ishay has observed electrical voltage and currents in Oriental Wasps. Not only the cuticle of the wasp’s exoskeleton, but also the silk surrounding the pupae and the colony’s comb walls conduct electricity. The yellow band on the Oriental Wasp’s abdomen (and sometimes its head) has its own shocking surprise. The yellow xanthopterin absorbs light and converts it into electricity.
Its brown exoskeleton traps sunlight in microscopic grooves. As the light bounces inside the reflective chitin, the photons which reach the yellow xanthopterin pigment energize electrons and cause voltage to build up. In darkness, the stored electrical potential is released as an electric current. The strength of the current depends on the ambient temperature. It is highest at about 27-30 degrees Celsius, and lowest at 5 degrees Celsius. Dr. Ishay had theorized that the temperatures and current flows are important for the proper development of the pupae. In itself, this was not surprising. Bees, for example, regulate the temperature of the hive to keep their eggs and pupae healthy. The surprise was that electricity may be involved.
Dr. Plotkin has observed that the higher temperatures and current flows correspond to higher activity in the colony, in the early afternoon. Many other species of wasp, however, are most active in the first hours after dawn.