Hornets, generally referred to in-game as Flying-type Giant Insects (飛行型巨大生物, Hikō-gata Kyodai Seibutsu), are an enemy introduced in Earth Defense Force 2025 and Earth Defense Force 4.1: The Shadow of New Despair. They are somewhat similar to the Wasps encountered in Earth Defense Force Insect Armageddon, but are closer to the Flying Ants encountered in Global Defence Force. Hornets return in Earth Defense Force 5, where they are called Flying Aggressors (飛行型侵略生物, Hikō-gata Shinryaku Seibutsu).
Hornets are flying creatures roughly the same size as Ants, and like Ants are usually encountered in large swarms. They are essentially organic attack helicopters, and will fly to a target and then hover and circle around it, bombarding it with volleys of stinger-like darts they project from their abdomen with a swinging motion much like the one ants use for their acid attack. The impact of the darts has a distinctive metallic shing sound, and the darts themselves are silver and appear to be some type of metal.
This attack works like a diagonal version of the Ant's acid attack, with a series of individually tracked darts that deal damage independently of each other and spread out like a shotgun blast as they descend. The darts always travel in a perfectly straight line, with no arc to them. They will pass through any enemies they encounter, only stopping when they contact either the ground or a building. A Hornet can aim in most downward diagonal directions but has a fairly limited ability to fire upwards, meaning that they have trouble attacking helicopters or Wing Divers that have managed to get above them.
As with ants, the number of darts they fire per attack depends on the difficulty, from three or four on Easy to around sixteen on Inferno, and there is usually a gap in the attack's area, though since it comes down diagonally it can be harder to spot. Like many attacks in the game, Hornet darts will slow down player characters they strike briefly, with a large number of strikes in quick succession rendering their prey practically helpless.
Since the attack is diagonal, hiding under a low bridge or in a narrow space between two buildings offers almost total protection from it. While the tips of darts will often be seen clipping through objects, only the point of impact of the dart takes damage; the graphical effect of the dart is just for show, and it cannot deal damage through surfaces short of glitchy geometry.
As the difficulty increases, Hornets also become tougher, faster and deal more damage. In addition, they attack sooner on coming within range (on Easy they will pause for a moment before attacking even if their target is right in front of them, on Inferno they attack the instant they are in range), and attack more frequently.
If a Hornet is in a space where it cannot fly, such as in the narrow tunnels of the hive level, it will jump using the same AI as Spiders, and can rear up to fire darts, though they seem to prefer to make for open areas and attack from the air.
Hornets are more fragile than even Spiders, relying on numbers to bring down their foes. Since they tend to fan out around a target to attack it from as many directions as possible, they are best fought with automatic or spread weapons; at long range, multi-lock weapons like Fencer High-Altitude Impact Missiles and the Naegling Self-Propelled Rocket Launcher are best for thinning out an approaching swarm. Most artillery will miss them, but the Spritefall satellite weapon is surprisingly good if targeted at the ground ahead of where a swarm is travelling.
In 2025 they can be combated fairly well with an Air Raider's Skytrap Wire weapons, but these have been highly nerfed in 4.1 to the point this is barely a viable tactic, and it is better to bring turrets to deal with them.
Like most attacks, their darts can be reflected by a Fencer's Deflector Shield, though the timing is tricky and since they tend to surround their target the Fencer will still be taking damage from Hornets behind him while reflecting the attacks of those in front.
Hornets which are not aggro'd will remain on the ground, shuffling around aimlessly and climbing on things. If they are not alerted they have an idle animation of cleaning their face with one foreleg, which is actually kind of adorable.
First appearing in 4.1 and later returning in 5, these Mutants are a standard enemy type that appears throughout the campaign even on regular difficulties. They are functionally rather like Dark Crimson Ants, having no real change in their behavior, but are tougher and more aggressive with slightly increased damage.
They are not much tougher, though, and the same tactics that apply to regular Hornets will work on their red brethren.
The Death Queen is the Hornet equivalent of the Queen Ant and King Spider, a powerful boss enemy the size of a city block with unique attacks. She is almost identical to a standard Hornet apart from her enormous size, though her yellow tone is slightly darker. In 5, the standard Death Queen is simply referred to as Queen (クイーン, Kuīn). They are unchanged in 5 save for their skin now being a darker orange-yellow color and their eyes being purple.
Death Queens are orders of magnitude tougher than their offspring and require immense firepower to take down. They are much slower, however, and take some time to get in range to attack.
When they do, they use a similar attack, but the slow-moving darts they shoot are gigantic and much greater in number, coming down as a near-solid mass covering a very large area. The sound of their impact is not metallic, much louder and the impact creates a huge shower of dirt, making it impossible to confuse for a regular Hornet's attack. The darts deal immense damage on impact and have associated physics effects like Hector plasma cannons and Deroy artillery blasts, hurling infantry around. A Death Queen's are even stronger and can also throw tracked and wheeled vehicles around.
Like other "Boss" enemies, a Death Queen imposes a contradiction on the battle; she is best fought with high-damage, single shot weapons, while these are the worst weapons for dealing with her offspring, who will nearly always accompany her. In general this requires one weapon for dealing with her and another for the regular Hornets, such as an assault rifle and sniper rifle setup, or an Epsilon Armored Railgun supported with ZE-GUNs. A Death Queen prefers to fly at a much higher altitude than her offspring, however, which can make hitting her with vehicles difficult. Her preferred height is scaled up about the same as her size from a regular Hornet, which means she can often appear to be as big as a normal Hornet from the ground; this can lead to the very unpleasant realisation that what was assumed to be a nearby normal Hornet is actually a distant Death Queen.
As with normal Hornets, the Fencer can reflect a Death Queen's darts with his Deflector Shield, and this is actually a viable tactic since a Queen's darts are slower. A successful reflection will deal devastating damage to a Queen, with a few being enough to kill her outright.
A Death Queen's hitbox also includes her wings, which can be a useful way of targeting her while staying out of the way of return fire.
Death Queens hit by explosive weapons will often have a brief stun animation where they flip on their back and fall waving their legs before recovering; this looks a lot like their death animation, and it can thus be difficult to tell if they have been killed. In general, if no part of their body has fallen off, they are still alive.
Red Death Queen
First appearing in 4.1's DLC starting with the first mission of DLC 1, the Red Death Queen (the Japanese version goes with the more evocative name Demon Queen) is very much like the Red Hornet, identical in behavior and attacks but with a significant boost to her health and damage. Since a Death Queen's health and damage is already significant, this makes the Mutant form very dangerous indeed. The Red Death Queen returns in 5, where she is now known simply as a Death Queen and is added to some missions on Hardest and Inferno difficulties.
This titanic nest acts as a special spawner for groups of Hornets and is the target in several missions. It is the toughest thing in the entire game: on Inferno difficulty, a hive has over 1.1 million health, with the exception of the three in Demon Army which "only" have about 616,000 each and the one in Shivering Nexus which has about 716,000. For scale, the Inferno Mothership's core has about 86,000 health, the Argo has about 305,000 and the Brain in Star Eaters has about 448,000. The only thing that comes close and is supposed to be fought with normal weapons is the mutant Erginus in the 4.1 DLC mission Facing Off, which has 980,000 health.
A hive isn't just a heap of compacted earth doing a credible impression of a battleship, however. It can also spawn dozens of enemies at once: 2025 features a spawn of 70 from one at one point, while 4.1 ups this to 106.
Rather than just being destroyed or not destroyed, a hive collapses in a series of stages with the collapse animation proceeding to its next step each time it loses 25% of its health. The best way to check if it is actually dead is to shoot it with a non-explosive weapon; if the shot kicks up dirt, the hive has not been destroyed yet.
Hornets are speculated upon as early as mission 5: Wind Break (Wind Shear in 4.1), where Ohara warns that the presence of new giant insects like Retiarius in the recently discovered underground nest could mean that a flying species might also emerge. They do not actually emerge until mission 38 (40 in 4.1) Crossing, where the elite Wing Diver unit Pale Team loses half of their forces after encountering them. Storm Team encounters them in the next level, Search, as they pursue Pale Team back into the area where Storm Team is conducting a sweep to eliminate giant insects in the city.
Seemingly they are not the creatures that become Dragons, since they are treated as a distinct threat even after the latter appear. The Hornets are found to be emerging from a colossal hive the size of an aircraft carrier located in the mountains, which Storm Team and an EDF strike force are sent to destroy in mission 61 (64 in 4.1) Bug Tower. Greeted by seemingly endless waves of Hornets, the strike team is forced to withdraw before it is annihilated.
Undeterred (and with little indication anything has actually changed in the meanwhile) the EDF assaults the hive again in mission 69 (73 in 4.1) Tower Siege. This time they succeed in obliterating it, only for Ohara to suggest that the hive may have been connected to the existing underground tunnel network, with the structure on the surface being just the tip of the proverbial iceberg; destroying it alone might not be enough to stem the tide of Hornets.
The EDF goes below in the next mission, Den of Thieves, finding the tunnels beneath the hive are filled with Spiders, including a pair of King Spiders. While never stated explicitly, this implies that the Hornet species somehow originated as an offshoot of the Spiders.
Working their way lower in the next mission, Death Queen, the army of Spiders soon peters out, with the last chambers instead host to a fearsome force of Hornets. In the deepest chamber of the hive the EDF troops and Storm Team do battle with two immense Queen Hornets, with their deaths ending the threat posed by the hive once and for all.
In spite of this, Hornets continue to appear throughout the remainder of the game; four more Death Queens are encountered trying to set up a new hive in the city in mission 75 (79 in 4.,1) City Flaws (though only in 4.1, there are no Death Queens in the original version of the mission), and in the online-only mission 91 (96 in 4.1) Demon Army the Hornets succeed in erecting three hives in either the mountains (2025) or another city area (4.1), though two are apparently immature structures and only contain Spiders.
Hornets also feature in the DLC, with two Death Queens appearing in DLC 2 mission 1 Advance (DLC 1 mission 1 Air Offensive in 4.1) four trying to set up a new nest in the mountains in DLC 3 mission 15 Four Kings of Nightmares (DLC 2 mission 16 The Four Horsemen in 4.1) and a Hive protected by Death Queens, Gold Queen Ants and Silver King Spiders appearing in the "impossible mission" DLC 3 mission 17 Shivering Nexus (DLC 2 mission 20 in 4.1).
- The design of the Hornet is directly based on the real world Japanese Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia japonica, known in Japan as the ōsuzumebachi ("giant sparrow bee").
- The same metallic dart model used for Hornet attacks is also used for the Fencer's Javelin Catapult and Javelin Storm weapons, though these function totally differently, throwing the darts upwards in an arc instead of having a flat trajectory.
- The map of the inside of the hive used in Den of Thieves and Death Queen is called "Beehive" in the versus selection menu. Presumably the bees were all kicked out by Spiders that then turned into Hornets just to annoy them.
- Four on difficulties up to Hard. Hardest has six, while Inferno would like you to fight eight of them at once. Oh, and you still have the ninety Hornets and now there's twenty-five red ones instead of ten on Normal. And there are six Hectors. And two Shield Bearers. Basically this mission hates you.