stir up a hornets' nest, to

stir up a hornets' nest

Make trouble, cause a commotion, as in Asking for an audit of the treasurer's books stirred up a hornets' nest in the association. This metaphoric term, likening hornets to angry humans, dates from the first half of the 1700s.
See also: nest, stir, up

stir up a hornets' nest, to

To provoke a quarrel or foment trouble. The analogy appears in the Roman playwright Plautus’s Amphitruo (ca. 200 b.c.), in which Sosia tells Amphitryon not to get in trouble by quarreling with his wife. It is cited by Erasmus in his collection of adages and repeated by Rabelais in Pantagruel. In English it appears from the eighteenth century on and remains current.
See also: stir, up