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Up The Hornets!

2nd of October 2008

It has been a very good year for hornets. Not the ones that give me times of great sadness and occasionally great joy at Vicarage Road Watford, but the ones that look like wasps on anabolic steroids. Actually, they are more orange and brown than yellow and black, and half as big again as wasps. Their life cycle is much the same as wasps with queens flying in April or May and laying eggs to start the colony. By the end of August, beginning of September, new queens will leave the nest to find males to mate with and then hibernate until next spring. The male will then die, as will the rest of the colony. Like wasps, they eat a lot of pests in the garden but, as they also fly at night they eat a lot of moths as well. They nest in holes in trees or gaps where they can get into roof spaces of buildings.
As the wood work on our bungalow had not been treated for some years, we decided it must be done this summer. Unfortunately hornets had decided that a gap under the roof overhang was just the place to pop in and build their papery nest. Although they are big they are not normaly aggressive and I hoped the treatment could be done without disturbing them. All went well at the cleaning stage, but I was a bit alarmed to see the painter dash round the corner with one of his cleaning cloths over his head! They did not like the smell of the wood treatment, and one had stung him as he ran away. We agreed to leave that side of the bungalow until last whilst I decided what to do. I thought of doing it at night time, but just like moths they were drawn to the light and they never seemed to sleep, so that was usless. The poor painter tried again with a brush taped to a broom handle, wearing a hat jacket and gloves, but this time he was stung twice and the hornets were really mad! Hundreds whizzed up and down the path looking for trouble. We left them to calm down but there was no choice but to get a man to “do them in”. I felt really bad, both for the painter and the hornets. As it was the end of August, I hope some queens may have already flown, but to my surprise there are still quite a few flying in the garden, but not from that nest.
I hope the ones at Vicarage road will fare better this season!
Wendy Bathurst

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