The Hornet Vespa crabro is Britain's largest social wasp. The queen starts to build her nest in the spring, with many workers becoming active by June, at which time the queen spends her time in the nest egg laying and tending her brood. By August the colony will be large and very active. Guard workers will "see off" anyone who approach close to the nest, but they seldom sting without provocation.

 

 

The HORNET Vespa crabro is Britain's largest social wasp. Each spring the queen emerges from hibernation having already mated the previous autumn, and she searches for a suitable place to build a nest. Having selected a site, she will build a small nest and create some cells, in which she will lay a single egg. Soon the grubs will hatch and she will feed them with insects or other meat. As more grubs hatch and grow they keep her very busy. When full grown the grubs pupate in their cells, and a week or so later worker Hornets hatch. These workers take over the job of searching for food and help in building the nest. By mid summer most Hornet nests have several hundred workers coming and going from the nest, with some guards around the nest entrance. By early autumn there will be much activity around the nest, and new queens and male hornets will be leaving the nest. Over the coming weeks they disperse and mate, then in the case of the queens, searching for a hibernating site. The males all die as winter starts.

Unless a nest is interfered with, or approached too closely, Hornets are not usually aggressive, but some may have had "a bad day", so caution is always advisable when dealing with these large wasps, as workers and queens can deliver a painful sting.

 

Two worker Hornets flying around nest enterance.

 

A close up of a male Hornet. The males have longer antenna than worker and queen hornets, and cannot sting.

 

Above a queen Hornet tending her brood in a nest box in early May. At this stage she does everything from nest building to feeding the grubs. Two of the brood have pupated and within a week or so they will hatch as workers. In the two freshly made cells at the top new eggs can be seen.

 

A Hornet chewing old wood to obtain pulp for nest building.

 

Worker Hornets nest building in June at the RSPB reserve Fowlmere, Cambs.

 

During early winter after the nest had been abandoned, the nest in the bird hide at the RSPB reserve @ Fowlmere was cut open, revealing the structure of the nest.

 

All pictures are Copyright of Richard Revels FRPS