I make no apology for mentioning this subject yet again. The threat is coming closer by the day, although I should mention that the NBU members who are actively working in Kent do not consider the situation to be all doom and gloom on this; they say it is partly the usual dramatic news-type reporting that is giving this impression.
For this edition of the Newsletter I have been pleased to receive numerous contributions on this topic. Many of them obviously contain similar material so there is some replication – let this serve as emphasis!
On 28th September we were all sent an email by Michael Main on behalf of our Asian Hornet Team (AHT). It contained the monthly SBKA Newsletter from Keith Mackie, Surrey BKA Asian Hornet Team Lead. Keith’s earlier reports have been reproduced in previous editions of our Newsletter. I would encourage everyone to look again at this email as it contains useful information sources but also outlines some suggested jobs that our members may be able to do.
Up to 29th September the National Bee Unit has reported finding 60 Asian hornet nests in 47 locations. Two sightings and nests have been found only 19 miles (in a straight line) from our Weybridge Beekeepers’ area.
These were found in Oxted, near Reigate.
So the situation is now getting very serious for us as well as the rest of the southeast area.
If you have not seen the NBU map of the nests found on the South Coast, do have a look; it can be viewed via the Asian Hornet App. The map is not always quite up to date, but the sightings are given several times a week. If it’s new to you, you will be rather shaken by the numbers of (found/destroyed) nests.
We must do all that we can to delay the hornet from becoming established in our area for as long as possible. This means looking out for them, and making our friends, neighbours and others aware of this very serious threat to them (potential severe stings), and our bees as well as the rest of the insect population. The sting of an Asian Hornet in nearly 6mm long, about twice that of a wasp.
I would also strongly suggest that you put one of our Asian Hornet information notices on your front door, or on the nearside rear window of your car (better still both places). If every beekeeper in the UK did this, it would assist the public awareness of the coming hornet almost beyond measure. 2
I would encourage every one of you to put a bait station in a suitable place close to your house or office, where you can conveniently and regularly see if it has attracted any hornets. See below for details of a very simple bait station that is cheap and easy to set up.
Record your Bait Station on the website
When you start using a bait station, please record this in the Members’ Area of the Weybridge Beekeepers website by logging in, as usual, then going to the top, right corner, where you will see ‘Howdy’ and your name. Click on that, then on ‘Edit profile’. Under ‘Account management’ go to ‘Bees’ and record your bait station in the appropriate space there. Your site will appear as a green flag on the map and others as blue ones. Recording is important as it will make it possible to see areas currently without bait stations so that these can be provided.
David Parker, WBK Webmaster
Asian Hornet Bait Stations
These are very simple devices using a honey jar containing a commercially produced syrup that is an attractant to the hornets (and wasps), but not bees. They are used to see if there are any hornets in the area. They are not intended to kill or trap the hornets. The idea is to place them in a convenient place where they can be watched regularly to see if any Hornets come to feed at the station. Have a camera handy. Once the hornets find the bait, they will return regularly, and so they can be photographed, and the NBU notified. There is virtually no chance of being stung at a bait station as the insects are too occupied with their work of feeding on the bait material to be bothered with humans when their nest is not under threat.
A photo of one type of bait station using a takeaway food container was shown in the September newsletter, but a simpler one that uses less bait has been devised. You can either make your own (see Michael Main’s article below) or collect one ready made from him. He also has a supply of recommended bait syrup – please take a suitable empty bottle, e.g. a 1-litre drinks bottle. No charge will be made for either of these items as WBK are supplying them.
Do spend a few minutes on this very important job of setting up the stations, and regularly looking at them daily; you may be the first to find a hornet in our area, and have the pleasure of knowing that you have been instrumental in postponing its establishment here for a year or even longer.
Note from Andrew Halstead’s article below the great importance of finding nests before the new queens emerge from them at this time of the year.
More on Bait Stations
In Autumn when there are lots of insects flying it is best to use baited monitoring stations rather than traps to avoid killing hundreds of other insects as well as the hornets. These bait stations are easily made using a 1lb honey jar with a hole drilled in the lid; a hole that is half an inch / just over 1cm works well. The jar is filled with the syrup bait and a wick of a piece of J-cloth or kitchen paper is inserted through the hole into the bait. This enables the insects to take the bait from above the lid without drowning in the liquid. It also slows down the evaporation of the bait. See photos on the next page. The insects regularly return to the station and can easily be photographed. It is also wise to check in what direction they arrive from and leave to. It is best to spend 5-10 minutes in the morning and evening watching these stations as that is the time most foraging takes place. As mentioned above, bait is available from me and I also have a stock of lids that Geoff has drilled to use with 1lb honey jars; more can be prepared if needed.
Asian hornet – urgent
As the number of Asian hornet nests found so far in England far exceeds those of previous years, it is vital that beekeepers look for Asian hornets around their hives and in other places, such as on fallen ripe fruits and ivy flowers, that are likely to attract this insect. Prompt discovery and reporting will allow the nest(s) to be found and destroyed before next year’s queens are produced.
A call to action, which is being shared with all Surrey divisions, is included in Keith Mackie’s October Newsletter, which has been sent to all members, as mentioned above. Please read it and take action.
Note that the hornets shown feeding on the bait syrup at a wick lure trap in my garden (left) are European, not Asian hornets; on Geoff’s (right) there are only wasps.
The ingredients of the bait are a trade secret but a company representative has said that it contains food grade materials. From the smell of the bait, I suspect that one of the ingredients is cider vinegar. The Surrey divisions have made a bulk purchase of this hornet attractant; details of how to obtain this are in Michael’s article, above. Surrey BKA are also looking into making a bulk purchase of traps – more information to follow.
Asian Hornet traps – What traps should be used and when?
In Spring when there are not many insects flying, but queens are coming out of hibernation, traps can be used. These can either be the home-made ones using a 2 litre drinks bottle, instructions on the BBKA website, or purchased ones, a stock of which we are hoping to have before the spring and which will be available at cost. They do need checking daily to release any non-hornet insects (the bycatch).
In autumn, monitored bait stations are more appropriate than traps, as described above.
An important reminder regarding Asian Hornets
Asian hornet nests, like those of the European hornet and other social wasps will die out in the autumn/early winter. Before that happens, the nests will produce next year’s queens and they get mated. These young queens will disperse from the nest and overwinter in various sheltered places. In early spring these queens will become active and will try to establish new nests.
The strategy against Asian hornets is to detect their presence as soon as possible, so the Bee Inspectors locate the nest(s), which are then destroyed. This needs to happen before next year’s queens are produced, so there is a real need for urgency in this matter.
Asian hornet likely to have become established in UK, say experts
You can read this authoratative and sobering article on the link: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/sep/04/asian-hornet-likely-become-established-uk-say-experts
Despite what is written here, we should maintain our efforts to locate and report findings in our area. By doing this we could well give ourselves a few more Hornet-free years.