How to Tell the Difference Between Male & Female Hornets


Like with many insects, distinct characteristics of male and female hornets are apparent if you know where to look. Hornets and yellow-jackets belong to the wasp family because they share social, physical and behavioral characteristics. While studying hornets can be a challenge owing to their semi-aggressive nature and isolation, some obvious signs can be just what you need to determine the gender of hornets and other wasp species.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnifying glass
  • Observe the hornet's size from a safe distance. The most obvious characteristic difference between male and female hornets is their length. Female hornets are half an inch longer than males because they need to be able to carry eggs of their offspring.

  • Look for the ovipositor, also known as the stinger. Female hornets carry a stinger, while the male hornets do not.

  • Study the hornet's natural behaviors. Since females are equipped with a stinger, they are normally found closer to the hornets' nest while the males stray farther to collect food and supplies.

  • Count the segments on the hornet's antennae. Because the segments are small and can be best seen under a magnifying device, determining gender with a live hornet is difficult with this method. If the hornet is dead, a sure way to observe gender is to count the number of antennae segments of the insect. Male hornets have 13 segments while females only have 12 segments.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid observing hornets and nests from July to October because the hornets have the tendency to become more aggressive owing to an expansion in their prospective territories.
  • Check with your allergy specialist to see if you are allergic to any type of bee or wasp stings before attempting to study hornets. Allergic reactions to the venom in the stinger can range from minor to fatal.


  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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