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bee Hammered Hornets

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Around October time hornet colonies start to break up, and the workers officially clock out to go partying.  After several months of unstinting duty towards the colony, suddenly it's their time to go a bit wild and let their antennae hang loose.

They fly out in search of sugary foods to satisfy their appetites, frequently ending up feasting on windfall apples.  Often the apples are starting to rot and the fermenting fruit makes the hornets drunk.

After a good meal of alco-apples you'll see them fall to the floor where they roll around in an uncoordinated way, completely off their faces.  After a few minutes they get back on their feet ready for another hit.

In the photo above sent in by Mike Lucie from Kew Gardens you can see some Ash saplings being destroyed by hornets.  The damage isn't malicious.  The hornets are literally stripping the bark off to get at the alcoholic, sugary sap underneath.

Mike told us; "This bark stripping by hornets is not a new thing to us.  We've noticed this sort of damage many times in the past few years.  The damage usually results in the loss of the tree due to girdling, the process of completely removing a ring of bark, thus preventing food and water being transported up the tree."

If you've ever tried scraping the bark off those trees with your fingernails you'll know how much effort it takes, and it gives you an idea of the strength of those hornet mandibles.  They must be getting a really good 'hit' to warrant expending so much energy on the bark stripping.

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