European hornets at close range

Hornet nest in a bird box

I have several artificial nest boxes around our firewood shelter along with a Warré hive and bees. The nests have been occupied by various birds and bats but this year I had the pleasure of watching hornets at close range. Having not seen any after 17 October, curiosity won on 27 October and I took it down to look inside.

The lid is secured with a plastic hinge so I tried cutting through the nest paper with a wire as I do with the Warré. This soon became stuck and felt much like tough toffee. Finally, it became possible to force the lid up: and I do mean force it up. The top, back of the paper nest was also home to a mass of webs much like those of the Greater Wax Moth. This is probably the Bee Moth, or the Bumble Bee Wax Moth, Aphomia sociella, which is very similar to, but smaller than the Greater Wax Moth. The body and forewing are a reddish brown and the female has a distinct dark spot on the forewings. The moth larvae, which are yellow and 24-30 mm long, chew similar boat-shaped depressions in the wood and create tunnels of silken thread through the nest. These webs are immensely tough.

I know there are those who don’t much care for hornets and wasps and would be happy to see them go. However, if these colonies are destroyed there is a good chance that any co-existing creatures, such as these in the nest box, will also be destroyed and it could be that they might also limit the spread of the Asian Hornet.

Article written by David Friend,
Member of Exeter branch