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We had a good hard rain yesterday (so nice!) which flushed some dead pine boughs from a tree. I picked up a clump to remove it from a path but stepped back when I saw a hornet. Looking more closely I noticed more of them. I took the pics today. I don't think their nest blew from the tree but wonder if the debris is blocking an entrance to their underground nest. They are very intent on their work, I was able to get to within about 4' without alarming them, and there are a lot of them working at whatever they are doing. Any ideas? I've also thought of pushing the pile with a garden rake. If I can identify a nest I would probably poison it, they are too close to where we walk. (Although I was not previously aware of them, so what's that about?)
These are not hornets, but bumble bees, very valuable native pollinators. They are cavity nesters, usually near or just below the ground surface. They generally are not aggressive, but will defend their nest if it is disturbed.
I did move the pile a bit, they got really mad, and they are now buzzing around that which I moved, making me think I moved their nest. I hope I will not be destroying them if I move the pile a bit more, if my wife encounters them where they are I am afraid they will get poisoned.
If you "move(d) their pile a bit to see if their hole has been blocked" you most likely moved their nest. Unlike yellow jackets, they do not have a hole to an underground nest, but simply nest under a surprisingly thin layer of debris. They are very docile as long as you do not actually impact their nest. In fact you probably could have reached down and touched the green foliage in your photos without repercussions.
Thanks, I was able to get close enough to touch them and, yes, I think their nest was in my view. I tried to move it a bit further off the path and under the azalea shrub because, as I said, my wife would not tolerate their presence if she happened to see them. They get quite upset, naturally, when the nest is disturbed. I'll take a look tomorrow. Thank you both so much for your help. I've learned something new. I thought they nested in holes in the ground. I'm curious now to know how such a meager nest works for them. It's hard to imagine where the the nursery is, or whatever you call it. I'll check google for pics. Thanks, again.