No apologies for putting in the following .
Next February may well be of great importance to us all.
Asian hornet 2024
Thank you to everyone who put out lures to monitor for Asian hornet in the autumn. We can rest during the winter but overwintered queens could be active as early as mid February next year. We all need to be alert from late winter to late autumn. Below is a timetable for trapping and/or monitoring in 2024.
- Asian hornet queens could be active in your locality from mid February-late March when they seek out suitable nest sites and build the initial nests in which the first broods of worker hornets will be raised. Use traps with a bait attractant placed in a sunny spot. Unwanted by-catch of other insects is likely to be small at that time of year because lower temperatures limit insect activity. Retain any Asian hornets that are caught and report the finding, using the free Asian Hornet Watch app [Asian Hornet Reporting | British Beekeepers Association (bbka.org.uk)] or notify the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology online.
- Traps for capturing queens can be easily made from plastic drinks bottles – see Asian Hornet Monitoring (nationalbeeunit.com)
- All Surrey Beekeepers Association divisions have purchased a bait attractant for use by their members and other interested persons. Weybridge members can get supplies from Michael Main (Weybridge) or David Parker (Horsell).
- From April to November, monitored lure baits can be used. These do not capture Asian hornets or other insects, so there is no by-catch. Place the lure bait in a sunny place where it can be frequently observed, eg by a kitchen window. If Asian hornets visit the lure, get a photograph or capture a specimen and report the finding as above. Also look for Asian hornets when you visit your beehives. See Asian Hornet Monitoring (nationalbeeunit.com for instructions for making a simple lure bait device.
- April-May is likely to be a quiet time for seeing Asian hornets. The experience in the Channel Islands is that sightings of worker hornets start to increase from June onwards.
- Asian hornets are unlikely to be seen from mid November to early February, so trapping/monitoring is not worthwhile in that period.
If you have not yet taken the simple Asian hornet test on the BBKA website [Asian Hornet Exercise (google.com)] please do so now. You will then be covered by the BBKA public liability insurance if you are asked to check out a reported Asian hornet sighting or if you are assisting the bee inspectors with a search for a nest.
Hampshire Beekeepers Association Asian Hornet Conference 11 Nov 2023
The meeting was attended by about 100 Asian Hornet Action Team leaders in a packed village hall in Itchen Abbas. Among them was a delegation from the Isle of Wight, who were wearing their AHAT jackets. These have a picture of the beast on the back with the slogan ‘’See it, snap it, app it’’, the app being the Asian hornet app for reporting sightings that can be downloaded onto smart phones.
At the time of the meeting, there had been 71 nests found in 55 locations, mainly in coastal areas in south east England but some as far north as Yorkshire. Most were tracked down within a day or two of Asian hornets (Ah) being reported. An area of densely scrubbed steep undercliff near Folkstone, where 7 nests were ultimately found, proved particularly challenging.
Honeybees form a large part of the Ah diet but they also prey on a wide range of other insects. In one study, the diet was found to be made up of 38% honeybees, 30% flies, 20% wasps and 12% other insects. If Ah becomes established here, it will have a significant effect on insect biodiversity and the pollination services provided by a wide range of insects. Ah is not just a problem for beekeepers and this needs to be brought to the attention of the public.
The Hampshire Beekeepers Association (HBA) has been developing their plans to deal with Ah. The current level of support from The National Bee Unit is unlikely to continue if Ah incursions continue to rise. The control of Ah nests is not a statutory duty for local or County Councils. Beekeepers need to develop a network of trained competent people to form AHATs with a leader, deputy and at least 8 other people. Currently only licenced people can undertake track and trace operations to locate Ah nests. Without a licence it is illegal to release an Ah. The licencing system needs to be extended to a wider range of people so that beekeepers and other trained persons can do track and trace operations, as is currently being done in the Channel Islands. HBA has developed an app to aid communication between its AHAT members and recording of Ah reports. Technical problems prevented it being demonstrated at the meeting
Members of AHATs have various roles. They receive and investigate reports of possible Ah sightings in their area. Most reports are of European hornet and other non Ah insects. Weeding out these false reports reduces the number of reports sent to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (more than 18,000 in 2023!). If a sighting is confirmed, AHAT members may be asked to assist the bee inspectors who will be leading the search for the nest(s). After the nest(s) have been controlled, bait monitoring for Ah needs to continue in the area to make sure that there are no more undetected nests. AHAT members (all beekeepers, in fact) should have monitoring bait lures positioned near a window through which they can easily view the bait from spring to autumn in order to detect the possible presence of Ah. Information about the Ah problem needs to be widely disseminated through talks to local organisations and displays at public events
One speaker gave an account of how his beekeeping in France had changed once Ah became common in his area. He had not lost any colonies but honey production had been reduced. Six Ahs outside a hive can reduce bee foraging by 50%; with 12 Ahs it comes to a halt. Serious predation and harassment of bee colonies by Ah starts in June as the nests build up in strength. As a consequence, it is spring flowers that provide most of the year’s honey crop. Strong colonies of healthy bees with young queens are needed to survive Ah predation. The speaker changes his brood combs every year and keeps Varroa at a low level. Swarm control is essential to maintain bee numbers in a hive. During the summer, feeding with syrup and pollen substitute may be needed if foraging is being prevented. It helps to cluster hives together so the predator pressure is shared among the colonies. Hive inspections are reduced during the summer. When necessary, hives are opened in early morning or evening when there are fewer Ahs about.
Methods of marking Ah workers for track and trace operations were illustrated. This can be done in a similar manner to marking queen honeybees. Licenced persons can release marked Ahs, noting the direction of their departure with the aid of a compass. The time of departure and return of marked Ahs is also recorded, with the aid of a stopwatch. Every minute an Ah is away from the bait lure indicates a flight journey of about 100m. Once Ahs have been recorded using the bait station, it can be moved about 100m in the direction of the flight line. Other bait station operators are doing similar checks in the area. Where the flight lines intersect indicates the likely search area for the nest(s). An experienced tracker can monitor the activity of as many as 8 marked Ahs. Once a nest has been located, pest control operatives are called in to spray insecticide into the nest in the evening. Nests are often high up in trees, which may require the use of a cherry picker lift, which can cost £250-500 to hire. The nest is recovered and sent away for analysis to see whether it had reached the stage where next year’s queens had developed
Asian hornet nests have been found in England in every year since 2016. Up until this year, it has been 1-5 nests a year, all of which are believed to have been controlled before next year’s queens were produced. 2023 has been a wake-up call to the reality of the invasion of Britain by Ah. It is likely that 2024 will see more queens getting across the English Channel by various means to add to any home-grown queens from this year’s nests. We must be ready to set up monitor lures from early spring, when queens emerge, until the autumn (free supplies of bait are available from Michael Main and David Parker). We must also spread the word about Ah so non beekeepers are able to recognise it and know what to do if they see one.
The free ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app is available to download from the Apple and Android app stores.
Members of the public can also report sightings by email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo or on the Non-native Species Secretariat website.
The Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat is a joint venture between Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government to tackle the threat of invasive species. More information can be found on their website http://www.nonnativespecies.org/home/index.cfm
Details on the appearance of an Asian hornet can be found on Bee Base guide or the non-native species identification guide.