Sunday, March 2, 2008

Hornets: the other things with wings and stingers

My assistant beekeeper made me look like a fool. She spotted an object lying on the ground in the distance, which appeared to me to be a chunk of concrete. She identified the object as a "bees nest" (she knows hornets are not bees, but she calls them bees to irk me). I then did what any self respecting beekeeper would do. I asked her if she was smoking crack, because I know a hornet's nest when I see one, and that is not a hornet's nest. Turns out she was right, and I was wrong. It was a hornet's nest.

Obviously, this time of year the nest was not in use, and the gray paper wrapper that would normally surround the comb was gone. There were two distinct layers of comb were the hornets were raising their brood.

The below pic is pretty cool- it is of the lower layer of comb. The cells on the bottom layer are much larger than the cells on the first layer. I think the larger cells are queen and drone cells. Like bumblebees, hornets produce queens and drones at the end of the season. The queens mate and then go underground where they emerge in the spring and build a new nest. This is totally different than what honeybees do. A strong colony of honeybees will make a few new queens, and then just before the new queens emerge, the old queen and half the workers will leave the hive and start a new hive somewhere else. This is called swarming. Back at the old hive, the new queens then emerge and duke it out as to who will become the new queen.

Anyway, check out these hornet queen cells:

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