The animal on the cover of Programming Hive is a European hornet (Vespa cabro) andits hive. The European hornet is the only hornet in North America, introduced to thecontinent when European settlers migrated to the Americas. This hornet can be foundthroughout Europe and much of Asia, adapting its hive-building techniques to differentclimates when necessary.
The hornet is a social insect, related to bees and ants. The hornet’s hive consists of onequeen, a few male hornets (drones), and a large quantity of sterile female workers. Thechief purpose of drones is to reproduce with the hornet queen, and they die soon after.It is the female workers who are responsible for building the hive, carrying food, andtending to the hornet queen’s eggs.
The hornet’s nest itself is the consistency of paper, since it is constructed out of woodpulp in several layers of hexagonal cells. The end result is a pear-shaped nest attachedto its shelter by a short stem. In colder areas, hornets will abandon the nest in the winterand take refuge in hollow logs or trees, or even human houses, where the queen andher eggs will stay until the warmer weather returns. The eggs form the start of a newcolony, and the hive can be constructed once again.