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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

05 October, 2016

Hornet: stiring up a hornets nest

There can be hardly be a more feared insect in the British fauna than the hornet (Vespa crabro). Renowned for their powerful sting the old saying about not "stiring up a hornets nest" is, I am sure, a familiar one to all of us. Of course, they do not sting just for the pleasure of inflicting pain on someone but if you do, even unwittingly, stir up their nest they will defend it with ferocity! Treated with respect they will ignore humans and carry on with the business of raising their family.
Hornets are not as common as they once were mainly due to loss of their preferred habitat. They are primarily a woodland insect and are most often encountered in ancient woodland. They like a supply of soft, rotting timber to collect fragments of to make their wonderfully intricate nest made with layers of paper thin wood. They may be seen away from woodland in the autumn when their family work is done and they have time to roam. They hunt small insect prey on flower heads in summer
A member of the wasp family of course and they look like an oversized common wasp although are much more of a shade of orange than the bright yellow of the wasp. They cannot really be mistaken for anything else although some people do confuse the large hoverfly Volucella zonaria with a hornet but the hoverfly is totally lacking any form of sting.
Hornet: stiring up a hornets nest