In August, my husband showed me an active hornet nest hidden in the trees by our cabin. He said, “When fall comes, we can come get this. Hopefully, it will still be here.”
These big, papery nests are often used as decoration in rustic homes and businesses. You even see them for sale in stores for upwards of 100.00 because people love putting a small piece of nature in their cabins, but few want to brave hornet attacks to acquire a conversation piece. It isn’t easy collecting them, because you must wait until they are fully formed, yet dormant, but while waiting, the wind and storms of winter often destroy or batter the nest. Sometimes, they are hanging so high in the trees, you can’t get to them, or if you can, cutting the branch means a long fall that can break the treasure apart. Nothing is easy.
I always admire the hornet nests I see in cabins or stores and I’ve always wanted one, so it was exciting to see this perfect nest hanging within reach in the brush right along the road. These gray masses are hard to discover because they blend so well with the environment. Actually, I went right past this one a zillion times and didn’t even notice it. Mark is forever looking into the trees to seek twisted branches for broom handles or for pieces to use when making interesting furniture, so he sees things other people just wouldn’t notice. Each time, when he points something like this out, I wonder how it is some of us can be so oblivious, while others go through the day so aware and in the moment.
Mark’s mentioned the nest a few times since discovering it, usually after a trip to the cabin for maintenance or something, but I doubted we’d really get around to harvesting it. We have since sold the cabin, so now, with no reason to go over there, I put the nest out of my mind. I figured someone who lives nearby would snag it long before we got around to it.
Yesterday, we went to lunch at a small restaurant in an apple orchard near our house that just so happens to have two big hornet nests hanging from rafters as decoration. As you can imagine, this brought up the subject of “our nest”.
Mark said, “That nest should be dormant this time of year. Let’s go get it.”
I asked if I should get my bee bonnet or gloves, but he only laughed as if I was a big weenie and told me to bring a huge trash bag. He’d get the clippers.
I suggested we bring the truck so we could transport the nest in the back, outside of the vehicle. I guess I had visions of transportation waking the hornets, thinking they would suddenly start creeping out, angry and out for vengeance. (I like bees, but wasps are soldiers of the devil.) Mark said that was ridiculous. They are asleep. We’d just put them in the backseat of my car.
We drove over and sure enough the nest was where we’d seen it last. We discussed the best way to get it off the tree without damaging it, and decided Mark would do the clipping, and I’d hold the bag underneath. Mission accomplished. It was easy and uneventful, which doesn’t make for a very exciting story, but I can’t say I was dissapointed.
Then, as we were preparing to go home, Mark looks over and says, “Hey, there is another one.”
Sure enough, he’d spotted an even bigger nest high in a tree across the way. We go to inspect it. This one would be a bit harder to get, but we would try. The problem was, I’d only brought one trash bag. So, we drove to a nearby gas station, bought some bags and returned. I should mention here that this nest was in the backyard of our former neighbor’s cabin. They only use the place for vacations, and they were not visiting at this time, so we took the liberty of walking through their yard to retrieve the nest anyway. If nothing else, we’ve saved them from being inundated with pesky hornets come spring when they return.
It was a successful hunt. Both nests are encased in plastic bags in the upper area of my barn now. We will spray them with hornet spray and wait for a few months until we are sure that whatever is inside had died off.
The owner of the Apple Orchard restaurant warned us that when they found their nests, the thing seemed so quiet they figured it was unoccupied. After all, no bugs came out when it was moved. So, they hung the nests right away, then, come spring, all the eggs hatched and the store was overrun with angry hornets. Was a huge ordeal. Now that would make for a good story, but not one I want to be telling about our new coffee shop.
Today, I will read about these nests on the internet, just because now that we have a few, I’m darn curious to learn about them. Hopefully I will discover the best way to preserve these delicate clumps of papery mud while I’m at it.
By summer, we’ll have a cool nest to hang in an office or the game room, and one for the coffee shop. I’m keeping my eyes peeled now; looking into the trees everywhere we go hoping to discover more of nature’s treasures.
Amazing how little it takes to amuse me nowadays.