The day began while it was still dark. Thanks to a 3.30am wake-up call, we (myself and two hornet-hunters from Kushihara) arrived at our destination in Mie prefecture at 7am. Amidst a beautiful but unfamiliar landscape, we began by seeking out acorn trees and looking for the parts of the tree where sap has soaked the surrounding bark, providing sugar-rich food for giant hornets.
We were looking for foraging worker hornets, who might be tempted to stray from their tree sap and drink some of our honey-water, instead. If/when they obliged, we would mark them with white plastic, follow them back to their nest, and dig it up..(details here) This was the plan for the day.
Our first success came with the discovery of a forest glade filled with Japanese honeybee hives, several of which were accompanied by one of their main predators, the giant hornet Vespa mandarinia:
And, here's the nest we eventually unearthed:
We also managed to retrieve the queen hornet; look closely at the photos below and hopefully it's obvious that her colouring is distinct and unlike the black and yellow stripes of the other castes.