13. Murder hornets

We were lingering over a long Sunday lunch when there were two loud bangs which shook the windows. The military don’t fly over us at weekends so they weren’t the culprits. Beside the house is the orchard and opposite, on the other side of the country road, is a converted barn – the home of Arnaud and his wife.

He had fired both barrels of his 12 bore across the road from an upstairs window at a frelon’s nest in the top of one of our trees. The shotgun pellets seemed not to have stirred up the residents nor had any effect on the nest. Maybe he had had a good lunch too and his aim was suspect. If he had aimed slightly lower he could have hit the electricity cable and then there would have been fireworks.

During the strict lockdown I went to collect the eggs one sweltering day. Didn’t have time to lift up the lid of the nesting box before I was savagely stung by a wasp (and don’t they pack a powerful sting). The nest had to be sprayed when we found it as there were young children about.

The structure of the wasp’s nest was interesting; made from chewed wood pulp and saliva it had thin, papery walls. Nests are usually built in sheltered spots with easy access to the outside, like another one we found (only because we were stung) in a hollow gate post. When you opened the gate they resented being disturbed. As gardeners, we are reluctant to spray. A garden without wasps would be one with a much larger number of pests such as greenfly and caterpillars.

The Asian giant hornet has no such fan club. It is thought to have come to France from China in a container of pottery. For anyone with allergies the frelon’s sting could be fatal and they can penetrate clothing. Generally it’s best to avoid them. Official advice to anyone who has a nest in their garden would be amusing if it wasn’t serious.

Forget that alluring perfume ladies (and aftershave, men). The frelons become over-excited at the scent.

Don’t run away from them – they can outpace you.

They are attracted to bright clothing.

Hide the alcohol.

Have a jolly BBQ!

Madame and I were having supper out on our terrace last week. It was yet another balmy evening and a few frelons were circling around an outside wall light but seemed harmless. I made the mistake of going into the kitchen and switching on the lights. Within seconds half a dozen frelons had swooped in behind me. It was not amusing to be in a room with them flying around your head. Madame had the foresight to switch the light out and give a powerful shot of wasp spray. We have not yet discovered where their nest is which concerns us.

National Geographic reports that the hornets have arrived in Washington State and scientists are concerned that they could spread. ‘Murder hornets‘ earned that name for their ability to behead honeybees, an entire hive of them, raising worries they could decimate entire colonies. There are moves to stop them spreading but it might be as effective as putting your finger in a hole in a dyke to stop the water.

We had to do something about our nests; we had discovered a second under the eaves at the back of the house near a bedroom window. First port of call was the fire station. The girl in the office said she was désolée but the pompiers did not deal with pests any more and we would have to try a private contractor. She did recommend the only likely one. Yes, he would come for 100 euros a nest!

It has to be said that he was very efficient. Whatever he sprayed them with was to make them sleepy, or kill them. He then wrapped a big plastic bag around it, cut it off and brought it down for us to see. They are a work of art inside but you do not want that kind of art in your garden.

Next post 14. Oh deer

Published by Down Under diary

Down Under diary

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