stir up a hornets' nest, to

stir (up) a hornet's nest

1. To create, provoke, or trigger a dangerous, troublesome, or complicated situation. The government's military interventions really just stirred a hornet's nest in the region.
2. To provoke or instigate a lot of very angry or offended reactions. The politician's off-the-cuff remark about pollution stirred up a hornet's nest among environmentalists.
See also: nest, stir
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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, to, up
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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