Worcestershire Record No. 22 April 2007 pp. 28-29


Compiled by Harry Green

Nestbox with old hornet nest             Pictures: Peter Holmes

General reports have indicated that hornets have become commoner in Worcestershire (and other parts of England) during the last five years or so. Similarly we have been aware of hornets using nest bird and bat nestboxes in Worcestershire woodlands (eg Trench Wood, Monkwood, Grafton Wood). Various notes about hornets have appeared in Worcestershire Record: 2003 number15 pages 40-42; 2004 number 17 pages 28-29. Garth Lowe’s comment below suggests that queen hornets may also over-winter in nestboxes although his report could refer to queens prospecting for a nest site. To continue documenting the apparent increase in hornets we should be pleased to receive more records (see below).

Queen hornets in nestboxes at the Knapp & Papermill Reserve, Alfrick.

From Garth Lowe 22nd April 2007.

I did my first check of the boxes in the Knapp Reserve this morning and had a shock, which is worth passing on. One box had a complete nest so as usual I felt for the nest lid to lift it and check if there were any eggs. There were in fact none but something was odd and on looking in again I could see some waving black legs. Blow I thought, it has been taken by a queen bumble bee, which does happen sometimes. To my horror the rest of the insect appeared and it was a queen hornet, quite dozy in fact, which is probably why my fingers are not tingling!! Great idea though, use the top of the nest as a duvet!

I checked the rest of the boxes very carefully and found two more sleepy hornets. One was in a nest of seven eggs, so it remains to be seen whether the bird has deserted, and in the other where on opening the lid at eye level, a pair of eyes gazed sleepily at me, there was also a great tit sat below looking up at both of us. The last two hornets were not very active and on gently removing them with a twig, they buzzed down to the ground.

With warmer summers, and the growing number of hornets, this is going to be a problem with checking nest boxes.

On request Garth also provided the following

I thought last year (2006) was very good for hornets round the Alfrick area, with at least twelve nests I knew of in our parish. One nest in a house near me caused the occupants to flee for the night when the husband drilled a hole in the bathroom ceiling to spray them, and the plaster fell down and out came some angry insects!!! He survived but did get stung. I had told him in previous years when he had another similar nest, to leave well alone if they cause no bother. This time he paid the penalty.

Most springs we get a queen buzzing around our abode in the woods, but it is too hot under our black roof for them to survive. This year is the earliest I have seen them out, one was flying at the start of April, seen in the reserve while doing a butterfly transect.

Hornets in nestboxes

Note from Peter Holmes 5th May 2007-05-05

Hornets in nest boxes: 2007, 3 (by 7th May 07); 2006: 2; 2005: 5; 2004: 2; 2003: (fewer boxes):0

Peter also sent two pictures of an old decaying nest attached to the outside of a next box. Hornet nests are usually constructed inside a hollow tree or part of a building (I saw one near Staunton a few years ago over 50 cm diameter hanging in hose roof-space). However, the nest box nests seems to overflow the space and construction of the nest continues over the outside of the box. It would be interesting to hear what happens to these nests in periods of wet weather.


If any reader is running  a nest box scheme it would be interesting to know how many nestboxes are taken over by hornets, particularly the proportion eg – of x boxes in such and such wood y were invaded by hornets. I should be pleased to receive details and pictures. Email to Harry Green at zen130501@zen.co.uk or see addresses etc on page 2.

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