British Honey Bees Threatened by Arrival of Asian Hornets
Beekeepers in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire in particular fear for the survival of their honeybee population now that the Asian hornets (Vespa mandarinia) are expected to arrive on the UK mainland from Europe across the Channel.
Since arriving in France on a freighter in 2004, they are now well established in France and are an ecological disaster. They spread from France to the Channel Islands, first in Jersey in 2016 and then on to Guernsey, reportedly due to rising temperatures. In 2019, thanks to the vigilance of local beekeepers, a whopping 83 nests were found in the Channel Islands.
The British public is asked to be vigilant and report sightings immediately since action must be taken to eradicate them when spotted. An Asian hornet invasion was anticipated by experts on Bee Day, September 7, 2020, which was the day that kicked off Asian Hornet Awareness Week. Recent wet weather has created a perfect breeding ground for these invasive insects.
The Asian hornet has an orange face and large jaws that decimate honeybees by ripping them apart. It has distinct markings such as black and yellow stripe on the abdomen and is about 1 inch long with yellow lower legs.
The invasive species likes areas with lots of fruits on the ground, like orchards, because there are many insects like bees, dragonflies and mayflies there. One Asian hornet can devour 50-60 bees in a day.
This 2:24-minute video by BBC News filmed recently gives some important information:
There are reports that these beastly insects are moving in from continental Europe, and they have been seen in the South West of England, moving north and east.
Any sightings should be reported to the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) immediately, so they can search for the local nest before the colony of Asian hornets gets established. You can do so by taking a photo with your phone for identification and report it by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or report it to the National Bee Unit by email at: email@example.com or call 0300 3030094. Or download the Asian Hornet Watch app on iOS or Android.
The nests are usually high up in trees. For each nest that is not destroyed, there will be five or six new nests in the following season. If they go unchecked, they multiply to the point that all honeybees in England will be imperiled the same way it has happened in France, Northern Spain, Portugal and the Channel Islands.
The danger they pose to honey bees cannot be underestimated. Dozens of these hornets snatch bees right out of the air in front of their beehive and tear them apart with such viciousness that the hive is destroyed or damaged beyond hope.
The worst part is that honeybees have no defenses against these invasive predators. It will fall to humans to be the defensive wall between bees and Asian hornets.
Honeybees are not the only creatures in danger. A person stung by an Asian hornet could very well end up in hospital. Their sting is toxic and very powerful, and multiple stings can cause fatalities. For a person with allergies, one sting can be fatal.
Research into the impact of Asian hornets on honeybees and other pollinators is being conducted by the University of Exeter.
According to Research Fellow and behavioral ecologist Dr. Peter Kennedy, “Asian hornets are anticipated to be a significant mortality factor influencing a broad spectrum of insects, including honeybees, on top of existing stressors (habitat loss, disease, pollution, climate change, etc.) that already impact our beleaguered native pollinator community.”
If you live in the UK, please pay attention to large insects around you. Reporting a possible Asian hornet sighting is easy, free and can really help British bees.
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