Hornets, like many social wasps, can mobilize the entire nest to sting in defense, which is highly dangerous to animals and humans. The hornet attack pheromone is released in case of threat to the nest, and to mark prey, such as bees. Three biologically active chemicals: 2-pentanol, 3-methyl-1-butanol, and 1-methylbutyl 3-methylbutanoate, have been identified. In field tests, 2-pentanol alone triggered mild alarm and defensive behavior, but adding the other two compounds increased aggressiveness in a synergistic effect.
If a hornet is killed near a nest it may release pheromone which can cause the other hornets to attack. Materials that come in contact with pheromone, such as clothes, skin, and dead prey or hornets, can also trigger an attack, as can certain food flavorings, such as banana and apple flavorings, and fragrances which contain C5 alcohols and C10 esters.
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