Friday, 6 July 2018

A walk through the trees and a fabled encounter with an Asian Hornet

It's a beautiful morning as I find my way to the central path up through the maize field.

We've not been up here for weeks, the dog and I, what with cattle, sheep and then, before that, lots of mud.

But today we're up on the highest hill in Dorset and it's only eight o'clock.

It's like a cathedral to nature up here, with the rising sun peeping through the branches to illuminate the trees, elevating them into something even more special than they already are.

We soak up the hazy view from the top before meandering around the summit, taking in the sights, sounds and smells and feel of this lovely rural spot.

There's a rope swing in front of me. It's pretty low on the ground but no-one's looking. So I lift my leg over and swing through the morning. The dog thinks I'm mad.

The sun throws a spotlight on my antics and then it's down the hill again, before anyone spots me. The scornful look on the dog's face is bad enough.

A foxglove gives a last hurrah, showing off its beautiful pink hue by nodding its farewells in the morning light.

Down here, below the currently pointless gate, the trees look like something from a desert. And so does the sky.

Back home, the builder shows me something nasty from the woodshed. He's captured it in a jar and we're worried it could be one of those horrid Asian Hornets that are eating our British honey bees.

But fear not, said I (for mighty dread had seized our troubled minds), I'll do a bit of research.

It's not long before I've clicked on a link and receive very speedy expert advice, from a very nice person called Steph Rorke from the GB Non-Native Species Information Portal (GB-NNSIP) at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in Wallingford.

"We receive lots of reports of native species that look like Asian hornets and I am pleased to say that the photograph you have sent is not of an Asian Hornet," she says.

"Your photograph shows a type of sawfly called the Horntail, or Wood Wasp (Urocerus gigas). It is a wasp mimic and is also a Hymenopteran like wasps but the larvae feed in the trunks of trees unlike wasps. It is completely harmless and the ‘stinger’ is actually just an egg laying body part (ovipositor) elongated to inject eggs into host trees. The ovipositor is modified in other hymenoptera (e.g. bees and wasps) to sting.

"Thank you again for your report – it is a magnificent creature and a great find, and such reports are also extremely useful for non-native species surveillance. Please do report any future sightings of concern by using the on-line form or app."

Well, thank Mother Nature for that. The Horntail had us worried for a minute.

So the builder is entrusted with the jam jar to release the Horntail back into its natural environment.

For an overview of the Asian Hornet and its status in the GB take a look at this factsheet. If you find something you think might be one of these unwelcome creatures, email a photo to

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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