Thursday, 24 September 2009

They Have Returned 24 Sept 09

Many of you will remember that last year I followed and blogged about a nest of Hornets in my local woods. Well despite many searches for Hornets and nests this summer by both Dave Newton and myself both drew a blank, it seemed that 09 was not going to be a good year for them. As I walked through my drive to my house just today, I had that funny feeling I was being watched. I turned my eyes to my left looking now straight into a shrub that I had planted for the insects, and there was a familiar and very welcome set of large eyes looking back at me.
The Hornets have come to me!A group of between 10/20 Hornets were coming and going into this bushy plant in my garden, which in fact is a variety of Hops, here is a picture of the plant.

I thought quite wrongly, that they were catching the many small insects which were all around the plant, however this was a completely wrong analysis. I watched closely as a small Bee was ignored by three of the Hornets which were all crawling over the same branch. Other insects were treated as though they were not really there. The only exception occurred after about 15 minutes of observation, this was when a lone Common Wasp landed on a leaf below the main Hops branch. This was not tolerated, as 0ne of the Hornet's, which made the Wasp look minute, caught it very quickly and snapped it in half with its jaws, but then returned to the job it was doing before, and so it did not fly off with the body of the Wasp. This observation helped me to understand what was really happening, and so it seems to me that this was a particular group of female workers assigned to a specific job. In fact they were collecting something from the shrub and then flying off towards a nest? Maybe the camera reveals what they are all up to. Poor picture, I know, but you can make out that the Hornet is stripping the outer layers of the branch from the Hops plant, after which it collects it in its jaws then fly off. This must be for re lining or construction material for the nest, however I do wonder if the Hops plant has some other special properties? (Anyone know, let me know please) O.K, anyone who thinks they are brewing beer can leave now.

Just as last year, I never once worried about how close I got to the Hornets, indeed on several occasions I actually stuck my whole face into the bush to watch what they were up to, and not once did they behave in a threatening manner, even though my ear was touch on at least one occasion. Health and Safety Caution Note: Don't do as I do.

I feel so privileged to be able to get so close, and hopefully to understand a little more about this wonderful insect, which throughout my youth was non existent in my area. Now hopefully it will become more common. I was told recently we should kill them on sight as the sting is so nasty. No doubt the sting is very nasty, yet I have been very close to individual Hornets and even sat at the entrance of a nest as you will recall from the blogs of 08. I have been thoroughly analysed by the nest guards, and I have been buzzed just today by female workers, I sense no real aggression from them. Actually today it felt like I was being inspected, but it seems their assigned duty far out way any aggressive tendency's they may have. Their own conclusion appears to be that, I'm no threat, or maybe they don't want the hassle? I find them placid but no doubt if you re intention towards them is not respect then thier atttude towards you might be different.

Tolerating species whether they bite, sting, kill other animals is I feel, very much apart of being closer to the nature that surrounds us. If we become closer to it, then just maybe we are understanding a little bit about even ourselves.

If you are Hops expert, or even more up on Hornets than me, then please leave a comment. What do they use Hops bark for? Also any support to stop people killing Hornets unnecessarily. Mary Colwell if you are reading this, then how about a Radio programme on European Hornets The facts not the fiction. There's a good title


Gaina said...

Aren't they the most beautiful creatures? :)

I have just been reading about hops as I was certain they had some antibacterial properties and it seems I was right, so I wonder if they take this back to the nest to keep down infection and moulds that might harm the colony?

I like to sit right up close to my lavender patch in the garden and let the bees fly around me, and the occasional wasp too. I think you're right, if you just sit quietly and don't make any moves to stress them they can sense you don't want to harm them and get on with what they're doing.

Chris Sperring said...

Wow. I did not know that! Note to self must drink more real ale.
Seriously this would explain an awful lot. I have now added a second picture of a Hornet in the bush, sadly the ones with a Hornet actually doing something with the Hops flower was too bad to show, if I have time I will try again Saturday.

Gaina said...

Hehe, I'm full of utterly useless knowledge but hey, if it provides someone with a good excuse to do more of what they enjoy then it can't be that useless :).

Have you got a movie function on your camera? You might have more joy capturing what they're actually up to with that.

Chris Sperring said...

Very good susgestion.
No video on the EOS 30D, but I do have a video camera. I will have a go, however don't try getting me taking stills and video at the sametime, I'm only a Male you know, doing 2 diffrent things at the same time is well beyond my make up.

The new EOS 7D is 18 megapixels compared to the 30D 8 MP and it has got HD video with sound. I think I'm overdue an upgrade so perhaps that will be my next camera.

Gaina said...

Meh, I don't buy into all this 'men can't multitask and women can't read maps' stuff. :P

I got an email about the 7D today but I'm happy with my 350D's and my HG10 HD camcorder just now. Might actually spend my grant on text books this year! LOL