Biggest Asian Hornet Nest Found in UK
The image above shows a cross-section of an Asian Hornet nest.
You may recall our recent blog post about the worrisome threat to British honeybees from rogue Asian hornets.
The purpose of these posts is not sensationalism, or to make people fearful. We educate people about the challenges bees around the world face, and Asian Hornets are definitely a growing concern to bees.
Asian Hornets arrived in Europe in 2004 by way of a freighter in the South of France and have spread throughout Europe ever since. The first sighting in the UK was on the island of Jersey in 2016 and the number of nests has grown ever since.
These invasive insects hover near a beehive and grab tired bees as they return to the colony after foraging, laden with nectar and pollen. The Asian Hornet snaps off the worker bee’s head and eats her as a sweet treat.
They are a threat to other pollinators as well, but each Asian Hornet eats up to 50 bees daily, so the effect they’d have on the UK bee population and honey production could be devastating.
This short 2:16 minute long video shows how serious the Asian Hornet problem has become on the Spanish Baleares Islands, where they think drones might be the solution to destroying Asian Hornet nests:
In the UK, on the small island of Sark in the Channel Islands, a huge nest was discovered, measuring 45cm wide and 50cm tall that contained at least 200 Asian Hornet queens. Each queen would be able to create her own colony.
In late summer 2019, beekeepers in the UK’s Asian Hornet Team traveled to Sark. They had been alerted throughout the year by at least 20 citizen sightings, and finally found the nest in the base of a chestnut tree, having spent weeks putting up bait and searching for the nest. They were surprised to find it so close to the earth, since nests are usually in tree tops.
They also spent months interviewing beekeepers around the UK, making notes of Asian Hornet sightings and nest locations. The fight against these insects that are deadly to bees is escalating, and every attempt is being made to keep them from invading the mainland UK.
When queens emerge from hibernation, they build themselves small primary nests and raise 30-50 workers. Over the summer and into autumn, the workers expand the size of the nest significantly, so 5,000 or more hornets can call it home. A larger nest, like the one removed in Sark, is a secondary nest where new queens are raised.
It is good news that these 200 queens have been terminated and will not create their own nests. In addition, close to a dozen traps around that nest yielded another 300 hornets.
The team returned to the island to destroy the nest, treating it with pesticide. Four hours later they cut it away from its environment, double-bagged it and sent it for dissection and analysis.
Anybody living around the UK who spots an Asian Hornet should report it immediately.
People who suffer from anaphylaxis should know that an Asian Hornet sting can trigger anaphylactic shock.
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