A thermoregulatory center in hornets: IR photography

Marian Plotkin, Natalya Y. Ermakov, Stanislav Volynchik, Zahava Barkay, David J. Bergman, Jacob S. Ishay*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the Oriental hornet Vespa orientalis (Hymenoptera, Vespinae), there is on the dorsal side of the thorax, beneath the mesoscutum plate of the prothorax and around the median notal suture, a lump that, in the course of hornet activity, is warmer by 9°C from the surrounding milieu and by up to 6°C from other body parts of the hornet. This lump is about 1 mm in diameter, butterfly-shaped, and its upper, posterior border abuts the base of the forewings. During hornet activity and via Infra Red photography one can observe heat extensions stemming from the center of the lump and proceeding forward in the direction of the head, downward toward the legs and backwards toward the bases of the wings. The warmest region is the center of the lump, with its margins showing a lower temperature. As for the legs of the hornet, their upper part is warmer than the other parts. The temperature gradients along the hornet's body are dependent on the extent and nature of hornet activity. Thus, during flight or ventilation activity, the thorax is the warmest part of the body, while the wings, legs, and antennae, as well as the posterior part of the gaster are colder, yet all these body parts are still warmer to varying degrees than the surrounding milieu. Thus, at night, when sentry worker hornets stand guard around the nest entrance and remain practically motionless, the temperature differences between the various body parts are retained unchanged. We conjecture that the described butterfly-shaped lump is a thermoregulatory center (TC), which is neurogenically activated, since the changes occurring in it are rapid, a matter of one to several seconds and do not appear to be directly dependent on the hemolymph supply. The thermoregulatory center keeps a high constant temperature apparently related to hornet activity and the environmental conditions. The temperature cascade is most probably regulated via the tracheal system. Apparently another system activated by a heat pump mechanism keeps the gaster at a lower temperature than the environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
JournalMicroscopy Research and Technique
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2005


  • Hornets
  • Social wasps
  • Temperature cascade
  • Thermo- and photovoltaic conversion
  • Thermoregulatory center


Dive into the research topics of 'A thermoregulatory center in hornets: IR photography'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this