British Bees Threatened by Asian Hornets
The image above is of an Asian Hornet on ivy, to help you identify them.
As if British bees don’t have enough threats to their existence, now another awful danger is looming in their surroundings.
Asian Hornets. They came to Europe about 10 years ago from China, accidentally arriving in France in a shipment. They have spread throughout mainland Europe at an alarming rate ever since and are causing considerable problems in France.
They have been creating difficulties on Jersey in the Channel Islands for the past few years, and more recently some have been seen on mainland Britain. Dorset, gateway to the Channel Islands, is on the front lines in fighting back any Asian Hornets trying to move to the British mainland.
There have been 15 confirmed sightings of Asian Hornets in England since 2016. One sighting was in Poole last year. So far, six Asian hornet nests have been destroyed.
Here is a short (3:44 minute) video to help you identify them if you see them:
Beekeepers have been trying to draw attention to this potential disaster to the pollinator population for a while. Most recently, the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) held an educational awareness Asian Hornet Week from September 9-15. They hope beekeepers will put aside an hour everyday to watch for hornets during Asian Hornet week, and in general to see if hornets are hawking hives in their apiaries. They also remind beekeepers to look for Asian hornets on late sources of nectar like ivy.
Mark White, from the Asian Hornet Action Team, points out that bees are a large part of their diet. They try to catch anything that flies mid-flight and decapitate it. They eat flying insects, and honeybees have no defense against being picked off by an Asian Hornet that hovers near the hive, waiting for tired bees full of nectar as they return from foraging. So wherever Asian Hornets are found, beekeepers have problems.
Anne Rowberry is the BBKA’s Asian Hornet coordinator. She cautions everyone to be on the lookout for this alien species, the Asian Hornet, vespa velutina. She warns that it could decimate British pollinators, including honeybees. Everyone needs to actively look for it because these invasive insects are not just a beekeeping problem.
Asian Hornets are big. If you are trying to identify one, keep in mind that the Queen is up to 30mm long and a Worker is 25mm long. Their body is mostly black with a small yellow band near the rear. Their legs are yellow, and their faces are orange with brown-red compound eyes.
A BBKA spokesperson says that during winter the risk of Asian Hornet nests drops considerably. They are more prevalent during summer and autumn.
People who suffer from anaphylaxis should know that an Asian Hornet sting can trigger an anaphylactic shock.