I recently got a call to remove a European Hornet nest from a shed and being of a curious nature I thought it would be interesting to dissect it. Therefore once we were sure that the hornets were not longer alive we took the nest out of the container I’d collected it in and slowly cut away the thin paper layer that surrounded it.
Inside we found 5 combs the largest being about the size of a side plate. The queen was easily found as she was noticeably larger than the workers. Unfortunately I forgot to count on the number of brood in the cells however, it was present in all stages of development. I would estimate that given another week there would have been around 80 – 100 more hornets which would have made for an even more eventful nest removal. Whilst that may sound like a lot it is relatively small in comparison with honey bee colonies which at their peak during the summer can have between 60,000 and 80,000 bees in various stages of their life. It is worth remembering that only the older worker bees go out and do the foraging. A large proportion conduct household tasks to keep the colony functioning.
The queen was found quite easily given that she is noticeably larger than the other workers.
It was interesting to have the opportunity to dissect a nest that was completely intact as it is sometimes impossible to gain access to a nest if it is under tiles in a bay window for example. I commonly get asked how big hornets are in comparison to wasps so it was also nice to get some photos which can better help answer any questions people may have.
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