Where a hornet queen flies around, a nest is usually not far away. But how is it to be distinguished from the workers and drones? Quite simply: by the size, special features in appearance and other features.

size differences

While the workers have body sizes between 18 and 20, more rarely up to 25 millimeters, hornet queens stand out with a body size of at least 23 millimeters up to 35 millimeters. Since the drones can also be the same size, the wingspan is another feature to recognize:

  • Workers: 33 to 45 millimeters
  • Drones: 38 to 52 millimeters
  • Queen: at least up to 48 millimeters, often up to 80 millimeters


If you look closely, you will notice that the basic colors of the hornets are black and white. This is also the case with the Vespa crabro queen, which, however, can be distinguished from the workers by red or reddish-brown spots on the abdomen. The drones are darker in tone than the workers and queen.


It is difficult or even impossible to determine the weight of living hornets, but it does provide information about the fullness of the body, which in queens reaches its peak during the main egg-laying season and is then particularly noticeable. In comparison to the workers and drones, the weight is shown as follows:

  • Workers: 0.5 to 0.6 grams
  • Drones: 0.6 to 0.7 grams
  • Queens: 0.5 to 1.1 grams – depending on the time of

When it comes to appearance, the stinger also plays a relevant role, which makes it possible to clearly distinguish hornet queens from drones in particular. The latter have no sting. At 3.4 to 3.7 millimeters, this is around four to six millimeters shorter in the workers than in the queens.


Hornets buzz more than buzz, like bees. Anyone who encounters a hornet queen will notice the dark buzzing. This is noticeably darker than the other hornets and therefore an ideal feature for recognizing the queen.

flight time

In contrast to the workers and drones, which fly around every day between May and September/October, the hornet queens can usually only be seen flying twice a year: after leaving their winter quarters and during nest building in spring and early autumn, when they fly out of the nest to mate. Here you can often see them with a male hornet, who bring their sperm into the female body.


Theoretically, hibernation is only possible for the (future) hornet queens. This is based on the lifetime, which is represented as follows:

  • Workers: three to four weeks
  • Drones: a week to a month
  • Queen: one year

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