This rare photo of a group of mating hornets was captured in Petersfield earlier in the month by Oliver Young. It shows two males competing to mate with a queen lying between them.
Hornets mate in the autumn, after which the males die and the queen hibernates in a sheltered place until spring when she starts a new colony. The new colony consists of infertile female worker who prey on many small insects to feed the growing lava in the nest. Males and new queens are produced in special cells in the late summer. The old queen and all her colony die with the coming winter leaving the hibernating new queens for next summer.
Hornets are a very beneficial insects capturing many pest insects in the garden to eat and feed to their young. If left alone, they are not aggressive and will only sting if provoked to defend themselves or their nest.