What could it be, that nightly scrabbling above our bedroom ceiling? That scratching, digging, pattering about even, right above our pillows? A mouse? A bat? A lizard? A Thing? Then we started hearing the dreaded hmmmmmm.
Outside, sure enough, we found a sizeable hole high up in the wall with buzzy things happily popping in and out. Careful study suggested that these were not bees or wasps, but Frelons - fearsome Killer Hornets very common round here. They’re like plump flying cocktail sausages, and we’ve been gleefully warned about their agonising sting since we first arrived in France.
Inevitably, the day we spotted their nest was the day before friends arrived to stay, one of whom has had traumatic experiences with bees and is therefore somewhat phobic.
So that evening, we placed a ladder up against the wall (which made them quite angry to start with), and girded George’s loins for battle.
Clad only in woolly hat and welding goggles… Barbour jacket zipped up to the nose, two pairs of gardening gloves and reinforced trousers, George valiantly scaled the first four rungs, then came back down.
However, after sustained encouragement, he wiped his goggles, went back up and squirted half a can of Critter-Kill vaguely in the direction of the entrance, slid rapidly down and we both ran like hell indoors.
I think we reduced Frelon numbers, but the colony was not obliterated. Three days later, arriving home with our houseguests after an evening out, the yard lights attracted several survivors. No need to panic – we scuttled everybody inside without a mention.
Imagine our delight when three of the sneaky little devils suddenly appeared in the living room and started bombarding the light fitting like mobile cigars. Our bee-phobic friend was either remarkably brave, or just dazed by the toxic cloud I hysterically enveloped us all in. Squashing the poor things out of their misery was like jumping on lumps of Crunchy bar, but at least it disguised them.
We got through the rest of the visit without further confrontation, and our happy band of hornets seem content to stay above the ceiling, where we are content to leave them for now.
Unless, of course, they invite Hornets We Don't Know.