Never Look a Hornet in the Eye




While trimming a large rhododendron bush in the back yard, I discovered a hornet’s nest. It’s a clever paper structure, built under a shelter of leaves and somehow actually attached to a couple of the largest leaves. You can’t see it very well in the picture below because I’m not brave enough to get closer.


I wasn’t even near the nest with my clippers, just trimming a couple of limbs that were stretching out over the lawn creating an obstacle for the mower. Moving the branches disturbed the nest. One insect began circling my head, then two, then six. Like any sensible gardener, I quickly left the scene

Once the insects settled down, I went back to look for the nest. Wasps have been building small paper nests under the covered patio for years, but this nest was much larger. It piqued my curiosity.

Dave and I talked about whether we should destroy the nest. If we did decide to destroy it, the answer to how it should be done is the punch line to an old joke, “Very Carefully!”

We decided to let them be. They seem to leave us alone as long as we don’t disturb their home and they are valuable predators of flies, grubs, and other insects.  I’m anxious to study the nest up close,  but I’ll definitely wait until this fall when it’s empty!


Yesterday we watched hornets flying in and out of the opening on the bottom of the nest. Curious to get a good look at the creatures and their home, I bent down and looked through an opening in the tangle of leaves and branches. I was able to do it without disturbing a single leaf and I had a perfect view! Exactly what I wanted.

Dave was studying the nest from another angle. Suddenly I realized one of the creatures was sitting in the opening looking straight into my face


“Hey Dave, see that guy hanging out at the opening? He’s actually looking me in the eye!”

It felt very odd. Insects are so much smaller than us that we don’t get a sensation of their consciousness. I don’t think of them as having a consciousness, but for a split second I saw the creature register my presence.

A second later his big fat body took off headed straight for my face! I only screamed a little bit, but I ran really fast!

I may have thought of him as a tiny robot, but he had taken a moment to look me in the eye, and he didn’t like what he saw.


11 thoughts on “Never Look a Hornet in the Eye

  1. Another great adventure in your own back yard, Susan. Love your sense of humor! Once, in second grade, I thought I spotted the consciousness of a spider as he rode the back of my hand… and then he bit me. Good lesson to learn while young; appreciate insects from a respectable distance. Glad you’re safe!

  2. The close-up is an amazing photo! Send it off to some major magazine. I’m glad you let them live.

    I recall getting stung by a hornet in rural Georgia when I was about three. It was caught in the screen door and I, thinking it was an oversized fly, tried to pull it off and set it free. I did free it but it stung my finger. No gratitude at all. The woman we were visiting rushed me outside and had me insert my finger into wet mud. The pain stopped. Oh the forgotten secrets of country living!

  3. Your writing is so good my heart jump when I read that the hornet flew at your face! They are magnificent homes to look at but can be so dangerous and I would not think any different of you if you decided to destroy the next.

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