Ireland’s First Invasive Asian Hornet Discovered
According to the Irish Times, a single Asian hornet has been found ‘alive but dying’ at a private property on the northside of Dublin. The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has confirmed this, which prompted a national alert about this invasive alien species to be issued to the public and beekeepers.
We have blogged fifteen times in the past eighteen months about the devastation that Asian hornets inflict on beehives. Here is one of our previous blog posts. We've covered France, Britain, more recently Washington state in the USA, and Asia, where they originated. The hornets must be eradicated as fast as they appear, so they do not get a foothold in a country.
While they seem to be particularly fond of decimating honeybees, the Asian hornet is also a danger to wasps, bumblebees, hoverflies, spiders, and other such insects. It feeds these pollinators to its larvae. Due to the speed at which these hornets can wipe out an entire honeybee hive, they are a danger to pollination and so they are a threat to national agriculture and the food supply.
This 2:19-minute video by NBC 26 is from one year ago, when Asian Giant Hornets were found in the USA:
The Asian hornet recently reported was the first member of its species to be found in the Irish wild. So far, no nest has been found in the area.
The homeowner at the property where the hornet was found took photos and sent them to the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) in County Waterford. The insect was later identified by the National Museum of Ireland as an Asian hornet (Vespa velutina).
Dr. Liam Lysaght, NBDC director, is pleased that the early warning system for invasive alien species seems to have worked well, and that the identification was made quickly. He said there is no evidence to suggest the insect came from an active nest, and there is no reason to suspect there is any breeding at this time.
Nobody knows how the specimen entered Ireland according to NPWS, but there are many potential pathways. The weather patterns are currently challenging, in that the easterly winds in recent weeks have blown Asian hornet queens from France to Britain, where the number of these insects has increased dramatically in the past week.
The NPWS reminds everyone that while one isolated specimen is not reason for alarm, this reminds everyone that invasive alien species can find a path in at any time. It is a reminder to be prepared to deal with them, should they arrive, to save the local ecosystems and protect biodiversity. NPWS is staying vigilant now that one has been found.
The Asian hornet, quite large at one and a half inches in length, has a large orange and yellow head. Its sting causes severe pain, swelling, necrosis and even death in isolated cases. It is way more dangerous than bees and wasps.
Honeybees are already threatened by many other factors, and these hornets have a voracious appetite for them. One small group of Asian hornets can kill all honeybees in a hive within hours.
Surveillance traps will be set in strategic places from the original detection point in Dublin. In addition, there is the “sentinel apiary program” that DAFM operates with volunteer beekeepers. This involves surveillance for Asian hornets at apiaries in strategic locations around Ireland.
The Minister of State says that vigilance is good but warns against over-reacting to sightings of other large insects like wood wasps and native social wasps, so they are not disrupted or destroyed.
Any further Asian hornet sightings should be reported, along with a photo if possible, at the NBDC website or by using the NBDC mobile app.
More information can be found here.
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