Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Garden nuptial Hornets

The back of the garden is a very pleasant place to be at the moment. There's plenty of dappled sunshine finding its way through the Sallow and Blackthorn which run along the garden boundaries. The ponds are clear and still, with just a few flowers of Watermint and much overhanging dead Agrimony, Loosestrife and Willowherb. This is presently favoured by Hornets (vespa crabro) linneaus that are present in some numbers as you walk down the garden. Some appear to be resting and sun basking, whilst many others are constantly quarrying branches and leaves for what I thought was for prey (such as butterflies and flies). I now realise that these were the nupital flights of the males and the virgin queen Hornets.

Today I watched two Hornets appear to clash together and then fall to the ground. They were later to be joined by a third. It was easy to see that the bottom wasp was a larger female (queen) and was mating with one or both of the two males lodged on her back. I took a few pictures with macro (sadly, quite poor) for about 10 minutes before they separated and departed back into the canopy. If successful, the fertilised female will, at some stage, hibernate over the winter and the hapless males will die as autumn advances. Hornets are a common site in our garden, doubtless moving from neighbouring colonies in Orlestone forest. I'd hoped the pictures would be better, but you can clearly see size and structural differences between the Queen and worker faces.

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