Bee pests and Asian Hornets

— Asian Hornet Information

Asian Hornet) (C) John Feltwell

Hello Beekeepers!

here you will find some information on things that predate on Bees and in particular the Asian Hornet, with several confirmed sightings in the UK at present it looks like it maybe here to stay 🙁 -WebBee

Th UK strategy for dealing with reports and sightings of Asian Hornets is that they will be dealt with by the Non-Native Sectretariat (NNSS) and they will co-ordinate the government response and liaise with the wider beekeeping fraternity and government departments. The latest FERA Asian Hornet sightings page is HERE

The best option Beekeepers and the public have is to “Be Prepared” as all scouts know, and understand what they look like, who to inform and how to protect your apiary and garden from any infestations of unwelcome Asian Hornets.

>>You could always download the latest Mobile Phone Application for Android or Apple devices! <<

For Apple devices HERE

and for Android devices HERE

There is an online reporting form that can be used HERE

This informational mobile application has been produced By FERA and the BRC and it is both compatible with Android and Apple devices, and it is strongly suggested you download and have this available to help provide information to members of the public or beekeepers alike.

>>>Please submit pictures as this helps with confirmation of the sighting!<<

The latest NSS News on invasive species is HERE

NSS resources and identification posters for the Asian Hornet can be found HERE

All sightings should be reported IMMEDIATELY to the Non-Native Species Secretariat either via e-mail with a photograph if possible to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk or they can be posted via their online form HERE

It would also be good practice to report this to your local BBKA Branch and area Association as soon as possible. This can be done via the BBKA Branch finder HERE

It is recommended that all beekeepers register with the National bee unit Beebase scheme to stay informed.

You could also contact the Asian Hornet Action Team, a group of beekeepers who have organised a response team to help the National bee Unit track down these invading Insects! you can contact them HERE

It has been reported that Asian Hornets are more aggressive than their native UK counterparts, as such if in proximity to a colony of Asian hornets the best form of defense is not to approach the colony

Asian Hornet- Photo NSS

Hornets emit a powerful pheromone that attracts other Asian Hornets to attack the same site as the initial sting; so very rapidly a single sting could become a problem if more Asian Hornets are in the vicinity. This is the major Issue in respect to children and pets in the area. There have been fatalities in France.

Please be aware a Bee-suit is not considered suitable protection for dealing with the over active attentions of a colony of Asian Hornets!

The best course of action if stung by an Asian Hornet is to try and disguise the sting pheromone with a smoker (if available) and withdraw from the area and deal with the sting and affected area by washing.

The Schmidt Pain Index shows the Strength of a Giant Asian Hornet and other Hornets to be slightly stronger than that of a Honeybee; however please remember that Hornet venom is made from different compounds than Honeybee venom and may affect people differently than bee stings. For an explanation of insect Venoms’ see HERE

The best defense for the Beekeeper is the eradication of this unwanted Invasive species!

What is an Asian Hornet?

In the UK there is luckily a co-ordinated approach between the British BeeKeeping Association and the Non-Native Species Secretariat; other international organisations and groups are also involved in tracking the Hornets progress.

The NNSS, Beebase and BBKA websites carry updated information about the Asian Hornet, these will hopefully be maintained, click on the links above for the websites Asian Hornet information pages.

Vespa velutina queens are up to 3 cm in length; workers up to 25 mm (slightly smaller than the native European hornet Vespa crabro)

They are entirely dark brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine yellow band and only one band on the abdomen: 4th abdominal segment almost entirely yellow/orange

Legs brown with yellow ends, Head black with an orange-yellow face

Vespa velutina is a day flying species which, unlike the European hornet, ceases activity at dusk

 

The life cycle of the Asian hornet is annual. Fertile female Asian hornets are stimulated to begin laying by warmer temperatures in spring. The fertile female will begin to build a small roughly shaped nest in which to lay her new brood. A single queen will only produce one nest in her year life cycle.

Like other social insect species the Asian hornet workers produced by the queen are sterile and live between 30–55 days depending on temperature. The workers forage for food to feed the queen and the developing brood, as well as continue to construct and expand the nest. Depending on the local conditions, a hornet nest around 90cm in height can house between 500–1500 hornets.

Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Toward the end of summer and into autumn, reproducing females and males emerge from the nest to mate. The Asian hornet workers remaining in the nest will die in the cooler temperatures and the nest will be abandoned. Asian hornets do not reuse the abandoned nest. The descendent fertilised female Asian hornets will over winter in insulated and sheltered cavities (such as under bark or in the small hollows of trees), alone or in small groups, before emerging to establish a new nest in the spring.

 

Ben Oldroyd, University of Sydney

Spread

Asian hornets are very strong flyers and therefore highly mobile; in France the Asian hornet has spread at a rate of approximately 100km per year. The Asian hornet has been accidentally spread internationally from Asia in goods shipments where nests or fertile queens can be found in freight containers, untreated timber, in the soil of imported pot plants, cut flowers or fruit. It is also possible that the Asian hornet could be wind-blown between closely neighbouring countries.

Distribution

The Asian hornet is native to Asia and occurs from Afghanistan across India, Pakistan and into eastern China, as well as in the Indonesian archipelago. The Asian hornet subspecies Vespa velutina nigrithorax was accidentally introduced to south-western France, on a shipment of pottery from China in 2005. Since that time it has become widely established in south-west France, as well as some regions of Spain and Belgium.

In 2003, the Asian hornet arrived in South Korea and quickly became established, spreading at a rate of around 20km per year. Since the accidental introduction of this pest, the Asian hornet has become the most abundant hornet species in southern Korea, displacing many native Vespa species which have a similar nesting biology.

The rapid spread of the Asian hornet throughout these countries demonstrates that this is an incredibly aggressive and invasive pest, and that it will become a major problem as more people and beekeepers come in contact with this pest.

Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

There are a number of ways to detect the presence of Asian hornets around apiaries. Foraging Asian hornets will typically appear during the day, ceasing all activity at dusk, and are most active from spring until autumn (the exact length of time is primarily dependent on the climate).

They can be observed hovering or ‘hawking’ outside honey bee colonies killing foraging bees that are returning to the hive with a load of pollen or nectar, or guard bees that attempt to defend the hive from attack. The hornets force the bees to drop to the ground before paralysing them.

 

The foraging Asian hornet will then proceed to decapitate the bee, remove its legs and wings and convert the body into a squashed ball for transport.

There are also reports that predation extends to entering the honey bee colony and stealing honey bee brood. When this occurs, it appears that the Asian hornet attacks all of the honey bee guards one by one before robbing the brood nest. A foraging Asian hornet will only consume a portion of the prey it captures; the rest is taken back to the nest to feed developing Asian hornet larvae.

Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

In its native regions of Asia, the Asian hornet has been reported to destroy up to 30 per cent of a colony of Asian honey bees. Reports from France suggest that in some regions where there are high densities of Asian hornet, such as the south of France where there is a long and warm summer season, complete hive losses have occurred. Beekeepers in France have observed that European honey bee hives have been completely lost, and that the Asian hornet commonly attacks hives that are generally very weak, have low numbers of foragers or in some cases are queen less.

In addition to attacks on honey bee populations the Asian hornet could also disrupt native biodiversity by predating on other native social wasp and insect species as well as crickets, butterflies, flies, caterpillars and spiders. They have also been known to consume ripe fruit and flowers toward the end of summer. They are not generally aggressive towards people, unless their nest is disturbed; in these circumstances they can administer a painful sting, like other hornet and wasp species.

Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera), Crown Copyright

Asian hornet nests can be found high in trees, though typically they will be hidden from view until autumn when the nests are at their largest and some tree species lose their leaves. In trees the nests are large, brown, spherical balls built around branches.

However, the nests can also be found in garages, sheds, under decking or in holes, or less frequently in holes in walls or in the ground. The nests will typically be found close to bee hives. During winter any small well-insulated areas (natural or man-made) can be inspected for the presence of hibernating fertile queens.

The use of traps placed around hives can assist with detection of Asian hornets around apiaries and also help to protect the hives from constant attack. Traps are available commercially but it is also possible to make home-made traps.

NOTE:-

There is another large Hornet in Asia called Vespa Mandarina sometimes called the “Japanese Hornet” or the “Giant Asian Hornet“; this is NOT presently a threat to the UK and should not be confused with the smaller Vespa Velutina the “Asian Hornet” when searching on the internet. This much larger Hornet is NOT presently reported in Europe and there are many misleading articles so be aware. Vespa Mandarina prefers to nest underground and is much larger. – WebBee

How likely is it to arrive and spread in the UK?

There is an NNSS Risk assessment especially for the Asian Hornet HERE, this gives the official view on the risk of the spread of the Asian Hornet in Europe, it does not give safety advice.

What is NOT an Asian Hornet?

Our existing Vespa Crabro is NO THREAT to Honey bees and is usually very passive, it is unknown how it will interact with Vespa Velutina. It can be easily identified as slightly bigger and more distinctive than the Asian Hornet.

Photo NNSS

Another difference is that our native Hornet Vespa Crabro has a distinctive nest and prefers to nest in old buildings and inside trees and other structures, the distinctive “Bike” nest is a wondrous construction. They do not “Hawk” or hunt honey bees.

Asian Hornets appear to usually nest in trees and large Shrubs off the ground, the nest is a distinctive round sphere and can be difficult to reach without help and equipment.

Photo NNSS

Why is the Asian Hornet a problem?

Asian Hornets are predators and they eat other insects and grubs; Honeybee colonies are an ideal source of protein and are no match for a much larger insect many times their weight and strength. Once discovered a Honey Bee colony can be rapidly wiped out by the Asian Hornets waiting outside the colony and catching the bees leaving or returning to the colony.

(Photo NNSS)

How to recognize an Asian Hornet?

There are many identification sheets available, here are a few; it is suggested you print them out and have them handy in case you have any need of reference.

ID Sheet for Asian Hornet

NSS Asian Hornet information and the NSS AsianHornet ALERT Poster HERE

BWARS – Vespa Velutina information sheet

Buglife – Asian Hornet info sheet

Asian hornet  Photo: AFP

Who to tell about your sighting of Asian Hornets?

All sightings should be reported IMMEDIATELY to the Non-Native Species Secretariat either via e-mail with a photograph if possible to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk or they can be posted via their online form HERE

It would also be good practice to report this to your local BBKA Branch and area Association as soon as possible.

 

How to protect your colonies from an attack of Asian Hornets

If Asian Hornets find an apiary there are a few things that can be done to reduce the effects.

If possible at an appropriate moment, move the colony to another site; this should break the link between the Asian Hornets and the Honeybee colony, however this may not be practical for many beekeepers.

Keep all entrances closed up and secured to ensure the Asian Hornet does not gain access to the brood box or supers. However this may cause a backlog of bees on the front of the hive and make things easier for the hornets.

Place suitable traps, with attractive bait in the flight-line of the Asian Hornets. Remember when siting traps do not place them ON your hives as this just attracts the predators to your colonies! If possible move the traps slightly away from the colonies when they become attractive to the Asian Hornet.

Consider using different entrance arrangements for your colonies to protect flying bees arriving and departing the hive (Use large mesh to protect the landing board etc)

Use a cut up queen excluder across the entrance of your colony to prevent larger insects gaining access if required, check the varroa mesh is intact under your hive.

How to make a Hornet trap

Beebase has a simple monitoring trap design that can be built with a lemonade bottle HERE

Here is a BBC News news item that shows how to make the Beebase monitoring trap HERE

(Photo NBU)

Here is a much simpler design to manufacture from Tavistock Beekeepers HERE

There are other trap designs available as well as videos; the important element is the bait used to entice the Hornet into the trap.

Sugary wine and fruit concentrate seems to be preferred in the spring with other baits preferred at the end of the year. An interesting website “The French Garden” with details of the french approach to Hornet baits and traps HERE

Here is some information from the Jersey Beekeepers website

“At the end of hibernation emergent hornets have a raised energy requirement and show a preference for sweet foods. In early spring such food resources are comparatively rare in the environment, so this means that sweet baits are highly attractive for the first captures of Asian hornet queens. French beekeepers often use a mixture of beer and sugar for this purpose. Other effective baits include sweet mixtures of wine, sugar, cassis, and water. You can also by proprietary brands of hornet (wasp) trap bait from many garden centres and DIY stores. At the height of the beekeeping season, when predatory worker hornets are seeking high protein foods, consider adding raw meat or fish to the bait mixture.”

Here is the link to the Guernsey beekeepers website with information on their bait and traps HERE

An interesting Apimondia.com comparison of asian hornet traps that suggests larger funnels are more affective HERE

Telegraph article – The best bait is prawns at the right time of year HERE

There is an interesting article on the effectiveness and components of wasp baits HERE

This is a trap for “Giant Asian Hornets” and NOT the smaller “Asian hornets” but the principle of the trap remains the same and may of use for the Asian Hornet HERE

News of an exciting discovery that could lead to the development of a specific bait for the Asian Hornet from the North American Sarracenia plant. HERE

Commercial products and traps.

The Vita Api-shield Hornet trap and hive entrance HERE

Further information.

The Animal and Plant Health Agency Youtube Channel has videos of their encounters with Asian hornets in France HERE

Destroying an Asian hornets nest 30ft up a tree video HERE

Asian hornets in a bottle trap and Hawking honeyBees HERE

ITV News report on Asian hornets HERE

Articles:-

French article (english) on how to identify your hornet

A French article on the spread of the Asian hornet in France with some good pictures HERE

News that the French have even enrolled chickens to help with the Asian Hornet, and possibly a fly…! HERE

Here are some excellent pictures of an Asian Hornet Queen starting a colony from Chris Luck on his Wildlife in France website HERE

An article Chris Luck posted in 2014 suggesting the threat from Asian Hornets may not be as great as suggested to honeybee populations, lets hope he’s right; article HERE

After-all you don’t want them to set up shop in an empty top-bar hive do we?  HERE

Another interesting article on french Beekeeping experiences with Asian Hornets

Michael Judd, originally from England, keeps ten hives at an elevation of 789 meters (2588 feet) under a small wild-flower-covered mountain near the village of St. Vallier. These higher elevation hives have remained free of the hornets. But he also keeps a couple of small hives in his backyard where the hornets thrive. Here in his backyard is where he has been experimenting with control measures.

You can read about his experiences and solutions HERE

Forums:-

There is a new Devon Asian hornet forum that intends to keep upto date with the latest information, why not join and contribute to the conversation? HERE

Research Projects involving the Asian Hornet

The University of Exeter’s Dr Peter Kennedy is trying to develop methods of tracking the Asian Hornet, and their latest update is HERE:-

If you have any other information you want to share please get in touch via the contact pages! – WebBee

 

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