The last new hornet queen leaves the nest to make her way into the autumn as two of the workers watch by the entrance.
Vespa: Well that's the last of them gone; finally we have some free time for us. It has been a hard summer getting all the new queens raised. You'd think we'd get a bit of gratitude from the old one, but no; might as well wish for jam everyday instead.
Crabro: If you think there will be any free time then I suggest you make the best of it. Have you not noticed how cold it is becoming, or that the light fails ever earlier these days?
Vespa: Hey I've been busy you know. Feeding these ungrateful new queens was pretty hectic. So what if the days are not as warm now. We will fly only on the sunny days and spend the other time here at home among the family. Though I have to say the mood of the hive is so much gloomier of late. You think everyone would be happy to see the end of our great work.
Crabro: And there you have it. It is the end of our great work and also it is the end of us. You do understand we won't see another summer sister? We have completed our task in the great scheme of the world. We are not fertile and we cannot feed in the winter. We are expendable; there is no food and even if there were, we cannot survive its cold. We shall linger a few weeks more and maybe the frost will come late if we are lucky.
Vespa: It doesn't seem to be very fair then. We do all the work and then die.Crabro: Fairness is immaterial. The queen is worn out and ready to rest as are also most of us. The new queens have mated and will feed and then sleep till the days of spring return. Then completely alone they must begin all this again. Do not envy them sister for theirs is the hardest task of all.
Vespa: What of the males then. Will they survive?Crabro: The males who mate die soon after and the rest well they follow pretty soon after. They are bred for a single purpose and once they have left we do not let them back again.
Vespa: How come you know all this happens to us sister and yet I do not?Crabro: Because sometimes due to chance one of us workers will survive the awful winter and emerge again in the spring. I remember I fed and then I slept among the paper cells till the new queen awoke and then I was able to serve her. This is my second year. I am older than the queen herself.
Vespa: You know I always thought your wings were ragged. But I didn't like to say.Crabro: May I tell you a secret sister.
Vespa: Of course
Crabro: I layed a single egg once and watched it for weeks till it hatched. It was a male and it was raised and in the autumn it flew out to mate and I never saw him again. I remember it had silver antennae which is very rare for us wasps. Normally they are completely black.
Vespa: Can we lay eggs then? I thought only the queen could do that.Crabro: Normally that is the way of things but sometimes if we wish it enough we can produce them.
Vespa: I wonder what happened to your boy?They sit on the paper comb silent and the old queen comes over.
Queen: Come on girls, you know the rules; no loitering at the entrance. Away with you both; there is still some nectar to be had yet. She flicked them playfully with her silver antennae and they bowed and flew off into the dawn.
Vespa: did you see; her antennae are silverCrabro: I always wondered about that too.