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There’s no doubt about it – the European hornet (Vespa crabro) is an imposing, awe-inspiring creature, a giant of the apian world.

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I spotted this one resting on a bramble bush during a woodland walk on Saturday and, as I rarely see them stationary, couldn’t resist getting some close-up photos. But not too close: these shots were taken using my 300mm zoom lens, so I was about two metres away. And I admit that, when the hornet became aware of me and turned to check me out, I did back off a little further. They rarely sting – only when stressed or threatened; it’s their sheer size (between 25-35mm) that I find a little intimidating.

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But this beautiful creature obviously didn’t see me as a threat and proceeded to clean its wings and eyes while I looked on in awe. A special encounter!