Unexpected guests in a home for nature

Homes for Wildlife

Homes for Wildlife
If you love the creatures in your garden, you'll love our Homes for Wildlife project. This is the place to ask and answer questions about making your backyard wildlife-friendly.

Gardening for wildlife

Follow the adventures of Adrian Thomas, our wildlife gardening expert, and be inspired to create your own wildlife haven on your doorstep. Adrian posts here every Monday and Friday without fail, so make it a date and drop by!

Unexpected guests in a home for nature

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I am indebted to Wildlife Friendly for the subject matter of today's blog. As many of you will know, she has a wonderful wildlife garden in Devon, so much so that Carol Klein and a BBC Gardeners World TV crew visited a couple of years ago.
One of the things Wildlife Friendly has done to literally give nature a home is to put up House Martin nestboxes under the eaves. But, as we all know, when you put a house on the market, you never know who is going to move in.
In this case, Wildlife Friendly's unexpected guests came in and did a complete makeover job to the inside of the property. And here is one of the residents arriving back in from a day's work out in the flower borders.

Yup, Hornets.
Wildlife Friendly then found another Hornets’ nest in the roof of her barn. With this one, the nest is fully visible, revealing the astonishing architecture, all manufactured out of chewed bark.

Within the nest, the queen will be ensconced, happily laying eggs while her workers furnish her and the developing larvae with food.
Wildlife Friendly read up on Hornets and found they are far less aggressive than wasps. "If they think you are a threat they will headbutt you, a polite way to say ‘please move on’, only as a very last resort will they sting. As insects go they are very intelligent so I am more than happy to let them stay".
As with all wasp colonies, you do need to treat them with respect, and you are well advised to give any nest a wide berth. In particular, there is the very small risk that whole colonies of any wasp species will mobilise if they feel really threatened. Hornet stings are painful, and it is very much up to the home owner as to whether or not to have nests destroyed. And of course those with allergies to wasp stings have to take very particular precautions.
The flip side is that the wasp family are fine predators of all sorts of insects, and under some circumstances can be beneficial as pest-controllers in the garden.
As with any wildlife where there is a potential conflict between them and us, the lines are finely drawn. But the starting point should always be understanding them. And there is certainly plenty to admire where Hornets and their home-building prowess are concerned.     
  • I was late in putting out a sugar water feeder for bumblebees and it attracted hornets and wasps instead. Usually I'm afraid of them but I've found that they don't bother me when I fill the feeder; either they're satiated and happy or they recognize me as a friend and feeder!

  • How absolutely marvelous. I think this is thrilling and what a design for a home. Nature is just wonderful