Some activities are better done behind closed doors... unfortunately, no one bothered to tell the giant ball of humping hornets.

Living in rural New York requires you to be a nature lover (or at least nature tolerant). No matter how tightly you seal your windows or how thoroughly you check your backyard fence, soon or later, a wild encounter is guaranteed. This insects, however, put the horn in hornet.

A giant mass of European Hornets (emer1940 via Getty)
A giant mass of European Hornets (emer1940 via Getty)

Hornet Mating Ball in the Hudson Valley, NY

"WHAT IS GOING ON IN MY DOG'S SANDBOX? Please somebody... Killer Bee Mosh Pit? WTH???", came the impassioned plea from a member of The Hudson Valley Facebook group. The accompanying photos looked like something out of a nightmare; a literal ball or hornets seemed tangled together. Apparently it was for a very special reason.

European Hornets in New York

The participants are European hornets (vespa crabro), and they make more hornets in a fascinating way. The "mating ball" that was photographed is most likely a group of male hornets all vying for a chance to mate with a female hornet. From the North Carolina State Extension (NCSE):

Reproductives (the males and females that become the "kings" and "queens") are produced well into fall. As winter approaches... The future queens abandon the nest and seek out shelter.  In the spring, each queen starts the nest building process over completely.

"Mating Balls" for Reproducing Insects

European hornets aren't the only stinging insect to start a good ol' mating ball going, either. Species like yellow jackets have also been seen writing together as they try to produce a future generation (below)

The good news is that while the hornets are "engaged" in reproduction, they don't seem to notice anything else. "When I moved them they dispersed… so no problem and I won’t kill them", the original author said in response to a comment urging her to use bug spray on the sex party.

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These European hornets are easily confused with "cicada killer" wasps, who can also generate a mating ball. While they can look similar in the throes of passion their coloration is more black than yellow (plus they kill cicadas). Check out these other fascinating creatures below.

What's Up With These Cicada Killer Wasps?

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