Gosport, Hampshire, 10th September 2020.
The Asian hornet has been spotted on UK mainland. The beekeeping world is on fire, as it poses a real threat to honeybees. But why?
The Asian Hornet is an invasive specie which appeared in France in 2004, following the import of goods from East Asia, as a Queen AH hitched a ride to Europe in some boxes of potteries (Some says it was pottery...well, difficult to check the information anyway). From a single Queen, there are now thousands of AH colonies in mainland Europe, and beekeepers are losing colonies very fast. It is estimated that last year, 15% of honeybee colonies in France were lost to the AH.
It was...a single Queen.
We could argue that the United Kingdom is "up north" and the Asian Hornet will never be able to establish a permanent home in UK. An excellent model shows what could happen if the AH is not controlled from the start: Predicting the spread of the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) following its incursion into Great Britain
What about the climate argument?
On social networks, some beekeepers are saying that the season for the Asian Hornet will be too short due to the geographical position of the UK. Shorter summer, colder climate.
Being in touched with a large number of beekeepers in France, it was believed that the AH would not adapt in some areas, especially in higher altitude where the warm season is slightly shorter than in the plains. A great example is beekeepers having their apiaries at 6 to 800 meters above the sea level and higher.
In the Pyrenean Mountains we know of beekeepers who are now spending their time hunting and killing AH... with scores going up to 2 to 3000 Asian Hornets captured and killed per year. And nests found by the dozens. The first snow in the Pyrenees appears at high altitude around the end of August every year. Temperature are dropping in the plains nearby. The season for the AH is short...very short. And it is still thriving and feeding on bees.
Tuesday : 300, Thursday 356 . Location La Barthe de Neste (France alt 661 M above sea level) Photo courtesy of Franck Picard
What can we do then?
Anticipate! Be prepared! The best way to prevent an invasion is to build a network of traps, in which we can catch AH Queens before they start nesting, so we can control the spread of the AH. Not very complicated, but all beekeepers, farmers and even public members must be on board. More information HERE
Bee Safe! Bee happy! Chris