Before delving into the specifics on hornets, the book begins with a concise overview of what makes insects unique from other living things. Next, the difference between hornets and wasps is explained, making it clear that even though these terms are often used interchangeably, they are two very different species. Interestingly, there is only one type of hornet in America. Originating in Europe, they were first found in New York in 1840. They have since spread out through much of the country.
The parts of the body—inside and out—are covered extensively with diagrams and text boxes identifying each part and explaining its use. Then, the life cycle is described as it moves from egg, to larva, to pupa, and, eventually, to adult. One particularly interesting fact is that the larva “clamour” for food—often in unison! The focal point is the building and tending of the nest. The queen chooses the building site and starts the design. The most amazing part is how she combines wood fibers with her saliva and juices to make paper! In addition, she forms each small cell into a perfect hexagon, making it ready for a single egg. Hornets prey on honeybees for food. They bite off the head and abdomen to eat the protein-filled thorax. Further information is laid out about the functions and continued building within the nest, ending with the winter coming. The queen dutifully sets everything up for a next crop of queens for the following spring season. The book concludes with information about other insect architects, glossary of key scientific terms, book and website resources, and hornet activities.
This series goes beyond most juvenile science books, but the information is not so dense that is becomes cumbersome. Markle's writing style is highly engaging. I found myself learning a lot and not wanting to put the book down! Stunning photographs accompany each section of information to provide an up-close look at the lives of these remarkable insects. I will continue to seek out additional books in the series as well as Markles other books. I recommend Hornets: Incredible Insect Architects for ages 7 and up. Independent reading level is about third-grade.