Monday, 28 September 2015

Day of the Hornet !!!

 European Hornet   Vespa crabro

Just the sight of a 'Wasp' or 'Bee' is enough to strike terror into some people, there may be screaming, there may be hysterical waving of the arms, some people may even be reduced to an evacuation, heaven help those trapped in a car when a Wasp pays a visit.

Hopefully these people will not encounter the Hornet, a 'beast' of the wasp family, armed with a stinger reputed to be very painful to humans, and I must admit quite intimidating when flying close to you.

In reality, these magnificent creatures are only aggressive in defence of their nest, I doubt if the humble Bee feels quite the same way.

I have only see the odd Hornet on occasion  in the woodland,  rarely in the garden, when the usual Hornet sighting turns out to be the familiar Hornet mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonaria. shown below.

Hornet mimic Hoverfly Volucella zonaria.

So as the summer recedes and we move into autumn, my wife and I encountered large numbers of Hornets today at our local patch at Ashenbank woods, while walking our dog.

No hysterics from my wife, thankfully, just a lack of enthusiasm that this species deserves I felt, maybe the Asian Giant Hornet would have triggered the appropriate reaction.

Unusually we were seeing a good number of Hornets mainly in flight around the sunnier glades within the woodland, some around the perimeter of the woods again in the sun.

It's about this time of year in their life cycle as autumn approaches, the Queen Hornet's egg development  changes to produce Drones and new Queens instead of  'workers'
The Queen Hornet has now reached the end of her life cycle and dies soon after, along with the remaining workers in the old nest.

The new 'Drones' and 'Queens' mate , the drones dying shortly after, the new Queens fly off to seek a place to hibernate for the winter before emerging next spring to start a new nest.

Maybe it was this dispersal we were witnessing, there were certainly a lot of Hornets on the wing.

After many abortive attempts to get close enough for a photograph, I finally caught up with one taking in the warmth of the late autumnal sunshine on a bramble leaf, closely followed by a second very close by in a spiders web.

My first thought was how unlucky for the Hornet to become entangled in the spider's web, until I realised it was the Spider that was unlucky and had just provided a meal for the Hornet.

Hornet v Spider

Strangely the following day, no Hornets were seen at all.


  1. They used to terrify the child me of Greek holiday beaches, but I'm told they aren't as aggressive as wasps. Lovely close up shots.