stir up a hornets' nest, to

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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, up
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Ferguson reminding Real of a past they would rather forget is likely to stir up a hornets' nest in Spain, but he clearly feels it is time the gloves came off in the fight for Ronaldo.