Worcestershire Record No. 26 April 2009 p. 34


Compiled by Harry Green

[This collection of notes should have appeared in Worcestershire Record No 23 November 2007. I re-found the files on my computer after Roger Umpelby recently enquired about its fate! How it got missed is a mystery – many apologies. Updates and hornet stories welcome! Ed]

We have been collecting information about hornets and have published a variety of accounts in Worcestershire Record in recent years. Hornets have increased in numbers and extended distribution in the last five years or so and can now be seen regularly throughout Worcestershire. They may perhaps face a shortage of suitable nest sites which are naturally hollows and holes in trees though the often use building and they are not unusual in house roof spaces. There have been an increasing number of instances of hornets nesting in tit nest boxes and bat boxes. These sites are far too small for a typical hornet nest and the insects quite often build extensions on the outside of the box exposed to weather conditions which does seem odd behaviour.

The majority of hornets are peaceful and pay no attention to people. Nests can usually be approached closely and observed – the hornets simply fly round the observer. However we did publish a report of a maverick nest in Trench Wood where the workers developed a habit of attacking any person who approached the nest (Tilt). Also Simon Walker, who works for Natural England in Wyre Forest, was badly stung a few years ago and needed urgent hospital treatment. (Sadly Simon died recently from cancer – long after this note was written). This year (2007) I have heard of another nest of aggressive hornets in Monkwood near Grimley but to date have no confirmatory evidence apart from a comment from Hamish Tompson at the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust along the lines of “I ran like hell down the track away from the nest!). I think he did get stung.

I have received a few reports of queen hornets over-wintering in bird nest boxes so if you are clearing boxes in winter it would be advisable to wear gloves and look carefully because hornet stings do hurt like a bad wasp string.

What follows is first a report on very specific hornet behaviour from Roger Umpelby followed by more information on the use of nest boxes by hornets. I shall be pleased to receive more hornet stories. If nest boxes are used it would be useful to know how many were used and whether a brood of tits fledged successfully before the hornets took over the box


Roger Umpelby

Hornets obviously have very discerning taste as the two photographs below show. The first hornet found Donnington SBA totally irresistible; the second one was more cautious, but returned time and again to check the Youngs’ bottle-conditioned Kew Ale. They clearly prefer real ale because I’ve never seen them anywhere near lager! An idea for a survey perhaps?







Jennifer Smith wrote:

Hornets in Chaddesley Wood, near Bromsgrove.

One of my PhD supervisors recently brought my attention to the article you wrote concerning hornets in nest boxes. My PhD involves 288 nest boxes in Chaddesley Wood, Worcestershire (a Worcestershire Wildlife Trust Reserve), and some recent inspections have revealed hornets using them. This year so far I have only seen one queen hornet using a nest box (a couple of weeks ago) and said box, when checked last week, no longer contained the hornet. However, when clearing the nests of last year’s season earlier in February, I came across two hornet nests which I collected out of interest. I knew they were hornet’s nests as there were dead hornets in them. I hope this information is useful, if you wish to know any more details I’d be happy to help!

Centre for Ornithology , School of Biosciences , The University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT

Peter Holmes maintains typical tit nest boxes near Malvern to collect data on annual nesting success. To add to his note in Worcestershire Record no 22 April 2007 pages 28-29 he wrote:

Hornets in nest boxes:
2006 2 boxes with hornet nests (77 boxes)
2005 5 boxes with hornet nests (77 boxes)
2004 2 boxes with hornet nests (77 boxes)
2003 no hornets (only 47 boxes)




Mike Stephens wrote:

Hornets at Chateau Impney

On reading Worcestershire Record No 22 I noticed you are requesting information on hornets in nest boxes. I look after 16 boxes of various sizes in the grounds of the Chateau Impney at Droitwich and one of the tit boxes had hornets in when inspected during September 2006. I did not disturb them! On a further inspection in May 2007 I was able to remove the hornet nest which completely filled the box but did not overflow it. There were no sign of any hornets.

Finally I received this picture via email from Andy Payne with the following comment:

Hi Harry, thought I’d send you this photo I took today at Belvide Reservoir (Staffs). My name is Andy and I am predominantly a Worcestershire bird watcher. I went on to the internet today to see how common this occurrence was, and came across your website. Hope the picture is of use.

Yours sincerely

Andy Payne

I was unable to reply to Andy. Every email bounced. So if he reads this please get in touch and many thanks for the picture!


Picture © Andy Payne


Hornet notes have appeared in Worcestershire Record as follows:

No 15 2003, pages 40-42
No 17 2004 pages 28-29
No 22 April 2007 pages 28-29
No 25 page 11


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