Asian hornets are adaptable and hardy. The queens are expected to start to emerge to search for food and initiate embryo/primary nests when the temperature gets to at least 13 degrees for 3 consecutive days. This gets them out and about before our native vespas and gives us a great window to start trapping with a much-reduced chance of by-catch, but as we head into the warmer times in late February to March, the risk of by-catch increases and must be planned for.
In Surrey we do not recommend trapping this spring. Until AH nests have been found in our vicinity, and confirmed as such by DEFRA or the NBU, the chances of catching an AH queen is approaching zero and the risks to native hornets, wasps and pollinator species are not worth taking. The nearest nests to us were found in Oxted, but this is in a Kent BKA area and they are taking advice from DEFRA/NBU.
Once we are in the situation that spring trapping becomes a necessity, maybe even as soon as later this month, it is recommended that we follow the extremely successful path that Jersey has taken by placing baited traps, with escape holes for smaller species, at regular intervals across areas likely to be in the vicinity of hibernating queens, and to check these traps daily to release by-catch. Uncontrolled trapping may have a significant detrimental impact on local biodiversity – just the situation we are trying to prevent by controlling the spread of Asian hornets. This year’s BBKA Asian Hornet Conference is taking place online on the 17th February. During the day there will be a briefing from DEFRA/FERA regarding the incursions last year, which should, we hope, give some clarity on whether we have established colonies of AHs in England. There will also be some direction regarding policy and planning for the 2024 season and where the BBKA fits in. With our first credible AH sighting of a lone hornet having happened on the 24th January near Hastings, it does concentrate the mind, and we should all be turning our thoughts to how we can prepare for the season ahead.
Julie Trice, Farnham
National Updates from DEFRA
Last year ended with a total of 78 confirmed Asian Hornet nests in 56 locations. In the main, nests were clustered in the Southeast of England – especially in Kent. The nest nearest to Surrey was found in Oxted. It was destroyed at the beginning of September.
Live data from the National Bee Unit (NBU) can be found on this link: Asian Hornet Map. (Just tick the year you wish to view; the map generally opens with confirmed sightings from 2022.)
Lone AH Sighting in Hastings
On 19th January DEFRA reported a credible sighting of a lone Asian Hornet in Hastings, (confirmed 24th January).
An Inspector from the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s (APHA) National Bee Unit responded to a call from a member of the public who made the discovery in the footwell of their car.
Despite searching the area, we have been unable to locate a sample. Hastings is a relatively small but busy port, so it could be:
a) An AH hitchhiker from a boat from Europe.
b) An overwintered queen wasp or
c) A European hornet.
We are waiting for confirmation. Although it was not expected to find AH flying this early in the year, local volunteer AHATs have been alerted to monitor their local area of Hastings for AHs.
BBKA AH Updates
BBKA appoints AH Outreach Officer
The BBKA has announced it has appointed Kirsteen Thorne as its first Outreach Officer for Asian Hornet. Kirsteen previously worked as a journalist, presenter and radio producer for BBC Radio Norfolk and the regional BBC ‘Look East’ programme.
Initially, Kirsteen will be focused on raising the profile of the threat of AH and implementing the BBKA outreach plan to engage with a wide variety of target audiences and organisations. She will also help identify and develop the resources needed by the BBKA’s associations to support their local awareness campaigns. Kirsteen can be contacted at: email@example.com.
NB: The BBKA has held its first Asian Hornet Committee meeting and agreed its next actions. The Committee is Chaired by Luke Whyatt, a newly elected BBKA Trustee.
BBKA Asian Hornet Conference 2024
The BBKA has released more information on this year’s Asian Hornet Conference. The event will be held on Zoom, from 10am to 12.30pm, on Saturday 17th February.
The following talks and speakers have been confirmed:
• “An Update From the NBU.”
Nigel Semmence, the NBU’s Contingency Planning and Science Officer, will report on the latest information on AH and measures being taken.
Nigel gave a National Honey Show lecture in October 2023, which is available to watch on the National Honey Show YouTube Channel: National Honey Show UK Videos.
• An Update on Jersey and what BBKA could learn from the Jersey Experience.”
Alastair Christie, Invasive Species Officer at the Environment Department in the Government of Jersey will give a talk on the ways in which the “hornet landscape” has changed on the island and how techniques for controlling them have evolved and been refined
In post as Jersey’s Asian Hornet Coordinator since 2019, Alastair has built up considerable experience of the AH. In 2023, Jersey’s teams found a record 339 nests – up from 174 in 2022. His talk will bring us up to date on what happened in 2023 in Jersey, and lessons learnt.
The BBKA will post more details about the Conference on its website here.
BBKA AH Briefings
You can still catch up on the series of Special Briefings by Andrew Durham by clicking on the following
Part 1: About the Asian Hornet (2023)
Part 2: What can we do? (2023)
Part 3: Special Briefing for Beekeepers (Update for 2024)
Surrey Division Updates
The Monitoring plan we put in place in late September has now ended. With daily temperatures regularly dipping below 12°C, there really is little chance of Asian Hornets still flying
However, now the leaves are dropping there is still the chance of nests being spotted – so please do continue to use the Asian hornet Watch app to report suspicious nests.
We are working on a proposal for countywide monitoring to be taken to the committee of Surrey BKA for discussion and agreement in early February.
Please continue to encourage everyone you know to download the “Asian Hornet Watch” app and become familiar with what Asian Hornets look like.
The App is free to download for Android via Google Play or iOS via Apple Store.
What else can BKA Members do? Well considering the lone AH that was sighted in Hastings, why not check your vegetables arriving from around the World!