We were only in England for a couple of weeks, but, when we came back, we discovered that hornets had decided to build a multi storey apartment block in our utility room. Doing any laundry, collecting brooms, mops, tools etc was impossible if you wanted to avoid being killed (I’m not exaggerating - these insects are seriously dangerous).
We both hate killing any wild creature, but these hornets weren’t something we could share our house with. Each one was at least an inch long and quite fierce, and there were hundreds of them. Neil got stung - he said it was like being hit over the head with an iron bar. I managed to avoid contact - since even a small wasp produces an allergic reaction I can’t imagine what would happen if I was stung by one of these giants. Getting rid of them was a very difficult business. The adults could be killed with spray insecticide, but what about the young ones in the nest?
Neil took it off the wall with a spade, trying to preserve the beautiful structure intact. There was an outer casing of thin card - fluted and woven in many different shades of cream and ochre. Inside, three tiers of honeycomb made from chewed wood. They were very heavy.
Cells that looked empty proved to have a tiny egg at the bottom - others had grubs in various stages of growth. Many of the cells were sealed over with paper and these contained the pupae - magically changing from maggot to hornet. Some of them were already beginning to chew through the paper lid and crawl out into the light.
We put the nest in a box in the wood next to our house and watched. The process - from egg to adult was amazing to observe at such close quarters. Sadly, without the adults to feed and nurture the colony, most of the grubs and insects died.
Hornets - at least in Italy - are aggressive and carnivorous. Quite by chance, when out walking with some of the writing group, we came upon a hornet attacking a butterfly. It chewed off the wings and then carried the struggling remnants up into the branches of a tree. One of the group managed to photograph it on the ground with her I-phone. Thanks Jillian! You can just see the yellow body of the hornet against the wings - one already detached.