Asian Hornet Update May 2024

National and International News
Beekeepers urged to Stay Alert to Accurate Updates

There have been some sightings of AHAT nationally –  mainly in Kent ( including a single hornet caught in trap near Four Oaks some 3km from the nest discovered in 2023), and the North.  

It’s also worth noting that queens have been found even earlier than last year in Jersey.

There can be quite wild speculation across social media and tabloids – so we recommend all beekeepers stay alert to accurate updates from the NBU and BBKA.  It’s always worth keeping up to date by visiting the BBKA’s online Asian Hornet Incursion Map

There were several Asian “Yellow Legged” Hornet lectures at the BBKA Spring Convention and recordings are being made available  – we will circulate links to all as soon as we can.

Southern Water Joins the Fight

Southern Water employees have teamed up with community action group Asian Hornet Alert  to install selective traps to catch AH Queens around the company’s wastewater treatment sites in Kent and East Sussex.   

Asian Hornet Alert approached Southern Water last autumn.  The group realised the treatment sites – with water, trees and hedges (particularly brambles) – were the perfect places for Asian Hornets to build their nests.  

“Being able to team up with Southern Water for this pilot scheme means we will be able to monitor areas that the public would not normally have access to,” says Michelle Elliot, Volunteer for Asian Hornet Alert. “We are now entering the active season for Asian Hornets, and it is hoped that the

traps set up late last year will catch their queens. Each queen caught stops a nest being established, which if allowed to happen can result in the production of a further 300 queens for the following season.”  

Matt Wagstaff, Southern Water’s Environmental Advisor says: “Our Asian Hornet pilot scheme aims to help the Asian Hornet Alert group monitor more areas across nine sites in Kent and one in East Sussex. If the scheme proves to be successful, it has the potential to be rolled out to a wider area.” 

French Senate agrees “National Control Plan”

The French to English online news service, The Connection, has reported on a new bill passed by the French Senate to help in the country’s fight against Asian Hornets.  The bill aims to “organise the fight and prevention against this species” by means of a “national strategy implemented at departmental level”.  

A new ‘national control plan’ will be created which will include a committee comprising state officials, hornet experts and other scientists, as well as beekeepers (who will also receive compensation for the destruction of hives caused by Asian hornets).  In this way – with an increase in monitoring – local authorities will be able to locate, report, and destroy hornet nests with greater autonomy.   

AI takes on AH in Jersey

A team of biologists and data scientists have developed an AI system that they claim can accurately identify Asian Hornets as an aid to their eradication before they can gain a foothold. 

The system, VespAI, uses deep learning technology, a method of computation inspired by the human brain, to identify Asian hornets attracted to a bait station, capturing images and sending automated alerts to the beekeeper, landowner or government official using the system. 

 A team of scientists (Thomas A. O’Shea-Wheller, Andrew Corbett, Juliet L. Osborne, Mario Recker & Peter J. Kennedy) worked with the Jersey Asian Hornet Group and the island’s government to conduct field trails with prototype systems in areas where Asian Hornets, European Hornets and other insects were abundant.  

As reported in the journal Communications Biology, the team analysed thousands of images collected by the prototype systems, manually checking each one to ensure that the AI algorithm correctly identified all Asian Hornets without mistakenly identifying other insects as hornets.

So far, the results have been promising. VespAI correctly detects Asian hornets with more than 99% accuracy. 

The trials indicate that the system could transform ways in which Asian Hornets are managed in at-risk regions such as the UK.  Traditional baited traps can kill substantial numbers of native insects including many pollinators. They do little to meaningfully reduce hornet numbers, as colonies continue to survive unless the queen is destroyed.  By avoiding harm to visiting insects, VespAI provides a crucial advantage over trapping.  Asian Hornets detected by the system remain alive and can be tracked back to the nest – the only proven way to destroy colonies.

Further trials of the VespAI system will take place in the UK over the next few months, as we work with government authorities to bolster eradication efforts at this crucial juncture.

Outreach Officers Update

Zoom Meeting: Engaging with the Media

Kirsteen Thorne, BBKA’s Outreach Officer is hosting a zoom meeting to give advice and guidance for AHAT Teams on how to Engage with the Media and make the most of AH interviews. The meeting on Tuesday 30th April at 6.00pm will include:  

  • What makes a good story and how to pitch it
  • Differences between local and national media, and 
  • Interview tips and techniques.

To attend the meeting click this link: Engaging with the Media   In the event that the meeting exceeds the Zoom limit, it will also be streamed live on YouTube.  

For those are planning on contacting their local media, the BBKA website carries an AH Fact Sheet that provides the basics to (hopefully!) prevent any inaccuracies in reporting.  

Children’s Resources and Chelsea Flower Show

Kirsteen is working closely with Lottie Buckland, who sits on the BBKA Shows Committee. She has created some exceptional children’s activities to use at shows and other events.  

“A number of you had requested more of this kind of resource that could engage youngsters when at public events,” Kirsteen says. “Lottie has kindly agreed to share some of her work.  We’re aiming to get that put together in a downloadable file soon.”  

The Animal and Plant Health Agency APHA, have invited the BBKA to join them on their Asian Hornet awareness stand at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show.  Kirsteen will be there on Thursday 23rd May.  Please do spread the word or come and say hello if you’re planning to be there.  

You can contact Kirsteen at

Budget Request Update

At its Quarterly Zoom Meeting on Tuesday 9th April the Committee of the Surrey Beekeepers Association took time to consider a renewed proposal from Surrey AHATs for funding for planned activities of AHAT Co-ordinators in 2024.  

Trustees and Chairs debated: the pros and cons of generating greater public awareness by joint working across the county, the possibilities of drawing down from the financial resources available to the SBKA; and the possibility of creating a ring-fenced account for AH Fundraising.  

The Committee decided not to create a co-funded package of support.  Rather, beyond the purchase of new bait once existing supplies run low, the Committee elected to allow each individual division to make its own decisions as to the extent of AH awareness expenditure and activity at each location.

The AHAT Co-ordinators thanked the chairs and trustees for their words of continued support.  They are grateful to Bob Maurer for the kind offer to purchase sets of pull up banners for divisions to have a fresh and visually impactful presence at Asian Hornet Roadshows across the county throughout the summer.

Surrey AHAT Co-ordinators are working on plans to hold roadshows at large public events across the county, so we have more eyes looking for AH and knowing how to report sightings.  If you are aware of a well-attended public event in your locality, please ensure your Co-ordinator also knows of it so we can spread ourselves across as many as possible.

Sussex University is asking people to join a bee hotel experiment

This experiment involves the setting up of ‘Bee Hotels’ and measuring the number of bees that they attract…

…The University of Sussex’s professor Dave Goulson who is leading on the project said, “This is a fun project suitable for anyone including children who have access to an outside space and an interest in encouraging wildlife. If we can get hundreds of volunteers to take part, we will be able to work out how to make bee hotels more effective and so help support our pollinators. Please join us.”…

Full details here:

Shrill carder bee

This bumble bee (Bombus sylvarum), once common in the UK, is now found in only a few pockets as intensive farming destroys wildflower habitats.

Having been asked for some more details on this, Andrew Halstead sent the following:

Like most of the rare and declining UK bumblebee spp., the shrill carder bumblebee, often found in coastal areas, needs flower-rich meadows, so is not specifically coastal. Flower rich meadows on farmland have mostly been ploughed up and resown with rye grass, or they are cut more frequently for silage instead of hay. See for information about this bee and its UK distribution.

We are fortunate to have in our Division the mine of entomological information that is Andrew.

Book review Varroa Managment

Varroa Management, a practical guide on how to manage varroa mites in honey bee colonies, 

by Kirsty Stainton

137 pages £16.  Published by Northern bee Books

I can hear you saying, “Not yet another book on this topic”, but in my opinion this one is rather special. It is beautifully written in simple but comprehensive terms. It begins with a summary of what we all need to know about varroa and its effects on bee colonies. Then it goes on to stress the damage caused by viruses, for which varroa is a vector, for example Deformed Wing Virus, and how varroa spreads viruses through colonies. The book then describes how the number of mites in a colony can be estimated, and what levels should be considered serious enough for action to be taken to reduce the numbers to acceptable levels. In this respect it is interesting that Kirsty’s recent research indicates that a natural mite drop of less than 10 mites a day does not require treatment, a much higher figure than the 2 per day originally recommended by the NBU at least 30 years ago.  The miticides familiar to us are described in some detail, and their effectiveness is given in terms of the percentage kill of the mites.

So what is so special about this book? It brings together in simple language all of the essential knowledge regarding varroa that we have ‘picked-up’ over the last 30 or so years, together with most of the commercial miticide products which are available, with very helpful comments on which to use and when to use them.  It covers both currently approved insecticides, organic acids and some so-called essential oils.

How many times have we been asked to advise a new beekeeper what to use when treating for varroa? This is not a question for which it is very easy to give a short, swift, accurate, and appropriate answer. I think that this fine book is an ideal answer to questions of this sort. I would describe it as a ‘must buy’ for all new beekeepers, and it would not be out of place on the bookshelf of any experienced beekeeper as a very useful reference book on the topic.

So, at least, have a look in it!

With all the current emphasis on the Asian hornet, we mustn’t forget Varroa!

Dr Kirsty Stainton has worked in many areas of bee research and related subjects. She works as Technical Manager for the National Bee Unit, has performed research for the NBU on invasive pests, Asian Hornet, Small Hive Beetle and honey bee viruses before moving into science communication. 

Geoff Cooper

Asian Hornet Update National News

Boost to Online Resources

The British Beekeeping Association has substantially re-organised its Asian Hornet website pages to provide easy access to a collection of resources to assist Associations in engaging their local community to help prevent the establishment of the Asian Hornet in the UK. 

The pages which can be accessed here – BBKA A H Resources – collect a wide range of materials including: draft press releases and templates for letters; posters and ID sheets, PowerPoint and safety guidance for the public as well as photographs images and videos and other items created by local Associations. 

The BBKA has also updated its pages of Resources for AH Teams uploading a number of new documents specifically aimed at AH Teams including: 

*Asian Hornet Risk Assessment
*Protocol for Spring Trapping of AH Queens
*Protocol for Asian Hornet Monitoring Traps
*BBKA Insurance FAQs

The pages include other useful items such as guidance leaflets on AH Monitoring & Trapping and an instruction pamphlet detailing a Method of Tracking the hornets developed in Jersey. A version of this method is used by the NBU to find and destroy Asian hornet nests. 

The National Bee Unit has also updated its Asian Hornet Monitoring Factsheet to include information on a small selection of commercially available selective traps that can be used for spring monitoring and guidance on setting up monitoring stations for summer monitoring. 

County News – Green Is Good

Surrey AHATs have welcomed the three zone – red, amber and green – traffic-light system adopted by the NBU and BBKA to indicate of AH incursion to an area and the subsequent use of selective mesh traps and bait stations to reduce the impact of trapping on native insects. The March edition of BeeCraft carries an article on the traffic light system, and the reasoning behind the use of selective traps and trapping by Dr Sarah Bunker, author of The Asian Hornet Handbook. Bait stations have important role in monitoring to find hornets, she notes, observing that more and more traps are becoming available. But, beekeepers “need to be aware of the consequences of bycatch and take great care to avoid harming native insects”. 

Surrey AHATs are relieved that the majority of the County remains in the Green Zone as the nests found in Oxted in 2023 remain the only AH incursion in the locale. 

Call for more AH Verifiers

AHATs still need more local beekeepers to step forward as Verifiers to help in the campaign against the Asian Hornet incursion in the UK. 

It’s a key role in each area. Co-ordinators are first point of contact when there is a reported AH sighting (liaising with government agencies and co-ordinating the activities of the Verifiers). But it is the Verifiers that help confirm the potential AH presence – and, where necessary, assisting both agencies and the Co-ordinator in monitoring and trapping. 

Many hands make light work, and Surrey Divisions still need volunteers to form a local Verifier network covering their geographical footprint. 

“The need for Verifiers is huge”, says Surrey County Co-ordinator, Helen Worwood. “Our County urgently requires more beekeepers to come forward to help fill the team vacancies – some Divisions have a way to go. 

“We are encouraging all BKA members who may be interested in helping in the fight against this pest to get in touch with their divisional Co-ordinator for a non-committal chat.” 

Surrey’s AHAT Co-ordinators are: 

Helen Worwood (Epsom) 
Croydon: Anna Slade Epsom: John Futcher 
Farnham: Julie Trice Guildford: Jonathan Brookhouse 
Kingston: Avis Marshall Reigate: Keith Mackie 
Weybridge: Andrew Halstead Wimbledon: Gareth Morgan 

Members can contact the above by clicking on the blue pins on the BBKA’s online AHAT Map, which enables the public to search for local Coordinators, who are each represented by a blue pin with contact telephone details. 

After recently taking Epsom Members on a walk-through of the BBKA’s Asian Hornet Training Exercise (a publicly available education and public awareness tool), John Futcher, the Epsom’s AH Co-ordinator, is encouraging the Association’s beekeeping and non-beekeeping members to spread the word to family and friends and to contact him if they are interested in becoming Verifiers. Email him at:

Surrey AHAT Budget Request

On Tuesday 12th March, the Trustees of Surrey Beekeepers Association held a special Committee Meeting on Zoom to review the request for funding for planned activities of AH Co-ordinators in 2024. 

The Committee received a written paper and heard a presentation by Helen Woodward and Jonathan Brookhouse. The proposed budget covered two major workstreams: Communications & Awareness Raising and Monitoring for Presence of Asian Hornet. 

A long and detailed discussion followed. The Committee applauded the work of the AHAT team and acknowledged the need for both the streams of work identified in the budget request. Consideration was given to the role of BBKA in delivering a national strategy and 

gaining greater understanding of he extent of existing resources in Surrey – including assessing the amount of AH bait remaining from recent monitoring; how best to employ local Associations’ gazebos, pop ups and banners; and the logistics of centralised buying and distribution. 

Trustees expressed concern about the long-term impact of ring-fencing an AH budget on SBKA’s central funds. With a request for more information on AH bait supplies and more detail on certain planned activities, the meeting closed with no firm decision. 

Work continues in this space. 

Surrey AH Co-ordinators are currently working on plans to hold roadshows at large public events across the county with the aim to generate more eyes looking for AH and knowing how to report sightings. If you are aware of a popular large public event in your locality, please ensure your AH Co-ordinator also knows of it so the AH Team can look to attend as many as possible. 

Refresh Your Knowledge

We continue to strongly encourage all members to watch out for the regular bulletins from February’s Asian Hornet Conference

By keeping up to date and well informed the better we can inform others and adapt our beekeeping practices to fight off AH incursions. 

Why did my bees die in winter? 

Claire Balla has reported that there are many people on various forums all asking the same thing, so she has asked for someone to write a short note in response to the above question. I hope that she gets plenty of response to this. Here are a few ideas of my own. I think it would be very useful if other members would send in their experience of winter losses, and any ideas of why they occurred. 

If you have losses, use your hive records, and memory, to try to determine why they have occurred. 

My own suggestions for avoiding hive losses in winter (not in any particular order): 

  • By the end of September assess the stores and, if necessary, top them up so that there are sufficient stores in the hive to last until the following March or April. (40lb total of honey or 50:50 honey/sugar) for a full-size colony..I see no need for feeding during the winter. 
  • Stores should be checked from early March, especially if the temperatures indicate that brood rearing may be starting in earnest. Remember that this is the month when colonies are most likely to starve out, because food stores are being used up rapidly to provide the energy needed for brood rearing. 
  • Make a habit of hefting the hives during the winter period. You will soon get the dangerous ‘light’ feel of a colony in danger of starvation. 
  • Give a thorough inspection of the colony before ‘putting it to bed’ for the winter. Is there a laying queen? Is there a sign of disease? Are there enough new bees for winter? Are there enough bees to keep warm? If the colony looks to be too small, wrap it with insulation at least an inch thick. (I have successfully run colonies through winter, starting with only a single frame of brood). Check the varroa levels (this should have been done in the summer at Varroa treatment times); have you treated for varroa during the year (strictly to the manufacturer’s instructions)? 
  • Two small colonies can be placed side by side, touching each other, the pair then being shrouded with a waterproof sheet, or better still thermal insulation; they will then keep each other warmer than if standing alone. 
  • I think that good beekeeping practices throughout the year will help to avoid winter losses. Currently, there is a lot of emphasis given to avoiding stressing the bees, and I feel that this will probably help them to survive winter. 
  • Keep an eye open for hive damage during the winter, for example leaking hives, and be sure to take the trouble to visit out apiaries for this purpose. 

Andrew Halstead has drawn our attention to the Beebase website, where there is a helpful video called ”A hive autopsy – common causes of winter losses”

Geoff Cooper 

Over a quarter of bees from Flemish beekeepers did not survive winter