Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Wildlife Wednesday: The hornet nest
No, no I'm not changing the name of the blog; it's just a post on this beautiful hornet’s nest we discovered in the wendy house!
We noticed the low hum of a hornet flying and watched one as it landed on the wendy house and crawled through a hole to the inside. Upon opening the doors we discovered the nest right up in the pitch of the roof at the back.
Naturally I was wary of the beasts and yelped a bit when the nest began to hum louder as we looked in. One flew around by head then somehow fell onto my hand, bounced off and flew away. I yelped again.
I snapped a quick couple of photos with the aid of a torch as the low light made it difficult to photograph. There seems to me some sort of excretion on the floor and on the box directly below the nest and there are several dead hornets on the floor of the wendy house.
After waiting a while it came apparent that the hornets are landing on the outside and make their way through the hole but they then continue to walk across the ridge board to the nest, rather than fly to it.
Knowing so little about these beasts that often find their way into the house and seeing their amazing nest drove me to do a little research on the internet. Apparently there is only one species of hornet in the UK known as the European Hornet or Giant Hornet. Its scientific name is Vespa crabro which I think sounds pretty cool. It is normally found in Southern parts of England but is spreading North according to the Natural History Museum website. This quite surprised me as we are much further North than the hornet’s stronghold down in Exeter and the New Forest. I am also relieved to learn that our native hornet isn’t as aggressive as the notorious wasp and their sting is no more harmful.
The ecology of the hornet is quite interesting; mated queens hibernate throughout winter then start to build a nest once they emerge in spring. Their eggs hatch into sterile females that become ‘workers’. They increase the size of the nest and collect food for the developing larvae. In late summer, males and fertile females hatch which mate and the females turn into queens. Sadly, the sterile female workers, males and old queen die in the Autumn. Strangely, fertilised (diploid) eggs become females but unfertilised (haploid) eggs become males!
This is a hornet but I didn't dare get close enough to one to take a close up shot so I have borrowed this one from Nigel Jones on Flickr.
Hornets build new nests each year meaning this one will be obsolete sometime towards the end of September. Fantastic news for me as I cant wait to get my mitts on the amazing papery formation!
So, if you come upon a huge humming hornet, don’t panic; it’s unlikely it will hurt you.