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Wednesday, 29 August 2018

European Hornet - August, 2018

The European Hornet (Vespa crabro) is Europe's largest native eusocial wasp. It is rarely aggressive, unless threatened, but is said to have a sting somewhat more powerful than the Common Wasp (Vespular vulgaris).

Until a few years ago, I'd never knowingly seen a Hornet in UK. However, approximately three years ago I started seeing them in the Midlands of England. The occasional sighting turned into relatively frequent sightings and this year, for the first time ever, we've started seeing them in our garden. 

It has now got to the point where, on a sunny day, we'll probably have a few sightings.  

8th August, 2018

When I came to check what I'd got in the moth trap that I'd put out the previous evening, I found a Hornet in the trap. It had been eating the moths - as witness, much debris in the bottom of the trap.



European Hornet (Vespa crabro) - garden moth trap from 07/08/2018
11th August

It can be quite difficult to photograph Hornets, as they are usually on the move. On this day, however, I spotted one land on a section of one of my bird feeder set-ups, and it stayed there while I went to get my camera. It was scraping rotten wood and rolling it into a ball, presumably for for nest-building purposes. A Hornet's nest is a magnificent structure, made of paper-like material created by the Hornet.

This hornet wasn't in a very convenient position, but I did manage to get some close-up shots.




European Hornet (Vespa crabro) - our garden on 11/08/2018
20th August

The moth trap had been out again overnight and, in the morning, I found that it had attracted three Hornets. This was my first, and so far only, sighting of multiple Hornets in UK. Time was limited, however, and I didn't take any photos.

25th August

A Hornet had been around for much of the day, and Lindsay noticed it drop down into an area of wild Thyme in the garden. This area is a favourite with bees, and it seems this is what the Hornet was after. It grabbed one, and took it to one of our Buddleia bushes. By the time I'd got my camera out the Hornet was hanging by its back legs, and and was using its other four legs to manipulate the bee, and had processed it to a point that it was no longer recognisable as a bee. It seems that the Hornet uses a similar process to that it uses on wood to chew up its prey before consumption or taking it to feed its offspring.

This time the Hornet was in a very difficult position for photography, and I didn't feel inclined to move it! My shots are not good, and I had to use flash. This seemed to cause the Hornet to turn its back on me and then fly threateningly close to my ear as it disappeared behind me.

Here are a few shots of what I did manage:- 





European Hornet (Vespa crabro) processing a bee - our garden on 25/08/2018
I'm quite happy to have the Hornets visiting our garden, but Lindsay's not keen! I just wish they'd leave the bees alone, and stay out of the moth trap. I'd also prefer that they didn't build a nest in our garden as I fear an uncomfortable decision would have to be made if they did.


Thank you for dropping by. I'm not sure what my next post will feature as I've got a lot on my plate at the moment and not getting out much - I might have to draw on material from somewhat earlier in the year.

18 comments:

  1. Great series of pictures, Richard, and an interesting and informative narrative. I am sure that invasive species are going to become more and more prevalent given the fact of climate change and the frequency of human travel these days. Probably your native bees are easy prey and have not yet had time to develop defence strategies. As you say, you don’t need a nest in your garden.

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    1. Thank you, David. This is a native species, but was once seldom seen. However, climate change seems to be favouring it.

      People are on the alert for the dreaded Asian Hornet, which has started appearing from time to time, and poses a serious threat to bees and is aggressive enough to be a serious threat to humans if a nest is disturbed.

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  2. Stunning images. It is a beautiful insect. I never see them here but there are occasional Horntails.

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    1. Thank you, Adrian - it is a rather splendid insect. I don't think I've ever seen a Horntail Wasp - must look into it.

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  3. Phew! Hope we will not get these! Greetings

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    1. Don't worry, Anne. They're not agressive like wasps are!

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  4. What a beauty Richard, brilliant photos, excellent subject.

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    1. They really are quite amazing to watch close-up, Bob, and they do seen quite docile for most of the time. Best wishes - - - Richard

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  5. Lovely set of images Richard. Whilst I normally run a mile when I see one, I can see the attraction for photographers. Photo three is quite brilliant.

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    1. No need to run, Marc. They're highly unlikely to do you any harm unless you sit on one or disturb a nest. I saw a blog post from a guy who'd had a huge number in his moth trap (something like 60?) and he'd happily photographed one sitting on his finger! I don't think I'd go that far, however! I think photo No.3 is probably my favourite too - I just wish it wasn't sitting on the edge of the pot that I'd put it in until I was ready to photograph it!

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  6. We had a nest in the ceiling of our bathroom last year. We had to get the guy in to get rid of them as they were becoming a problem and there appeared to be a lot. On spraying the nest and trying to break the nest up, he put a hole through our ceiling!! We must have swept up over 500 bodies inside the bathroom and I wonder how many might have escaped by not being there!!!! Scary to realise just how many there were despite them being called the gentle giants.
    We still have lot around, but they are obviously happily nesting elsewhere this year.
    Excellent photos. Best wishes Diane

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    1. WOW, Diane - that really was a scary situation. It sounds like an expensive one too! I hope the upcoming weekend gives you some great photographic opportunities. My very best wishes - - - Richard

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    2. We are away next week and I am hoping to get some good photos as we are near to a couple of lakes. Problem is it looks like the weather is changing and we could have a lot of rain!!!! Typical. Enjoy your Sunday Diane

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    3. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, Diane!

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  7. This is a very enjoyable series of photographs, Richard! Aren't they beautiful?

    With our sub-tropical climate, we have a fairly diverse population of bees, hornets and wasps. I manage to capture an image once in awhile by accident and always marvel at how handsome they can be.

    We're still getting regularly scheduled thunderstorms and have had an above-average amount of rainfall this season. Getting out early is a must lately.

    Gini and I hope you and Lindsay have a new week filled with peace and joy!

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    1. Hi Wally. They really are wonderful creatures. I expect that yours are probably a little more dangerous than ours - like many things in Florida, it seems! Our Hornets are usually quite placid, but I had four in the moth trap from last night, and one was acting rather angry and belligerent! I took good care with that one!

      We've had a few heavy rainfalls now, but overall the weather has been far too dry and a lot of our plants and shrubs in the garden have died. The farmers' crops have also suffered badly - food is going to get expensive!

      I hope that you and Gini have a wonderful wildlife-filled week - - - Richard

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