Wednesday, November 09, 2005

warming up on the mower

Photos by John Higgins, April 2005

The survival of the hornet (Vespa crabro) through winter depends on young mated queens who hibernate in rotten wood, soil, or sometimes in garden sheds, where they typically hang from the rafters by their jaws.

The three simple eyes (ocelli) arranged in a triangle on the forehead are sometimes said to be horizon-detectors, useful to keep a hornet flying through wooded glades at a steady height, making its impressive droning noise. Or perhaps they are flight stabilizers, required to correct roll (left and right ocelli) and pitch (central ocellus compared with the mean of left and right).

Alternatively, Rosenzweig argues that the triangular arrangement permits detection of polarized light and therefore the direction of sun-rays. Hornets disperse widely from their nests on hunting trips, and knowing where the sun is might help with the navigation.



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