Asian Hornet week –so what? Why should I care?
The Asian Hornet is a serious pest threatening British Agriculture. If it gets a hold here it is estimated that the cost of eradication will be around £7.5 million. That is just the cost of eradication. The costs to food producers is much more.
OK it is expensive but why does it have to go?
The Asian Hornet eats flying insects - the same insects that pollinate our fruit trees and many of our vegetables. In the absence of these insects we would have no apples, no beans, no blackberries and fewer flowers since there would be no flower seeds.
But I thought it only ate honey bees.
Honey bees provide a useful source of food to the Asian Hornet – like a take-away food shop. All the Asian Hornet has to do is hover outside the hive and wait for a bee to arrive. It grabs it and flies off to eat it.
OK so it eats a bee- does that matter?
Well it would not matter if there was one Asian Hornet and it ate a bee every day – but it is not like that. The Asian Hornet lives in a nest with about 6,000 other Asian Hornets. Research suggests that up to 600 bees will be taken each day. It does not take long for Asian Hornet to destroy a colony. Those they do not eat detect the threat and do not leave the hive leading to starvation.
And then what?
Well once the Asian Hornet has eaten all the bees it will start on other insects which are flying such as butterflies and bumble bees.
But is it a threat to me?
Well apart from the risk of food shortages and a loss of so many species which make our countryside so interesting – there is a risk to us. In France there have been several deaths from Asian Hornet and even in the UK there has been one hospital admission as a result of being stung by an Asian Hornet. The problem is that if you disturb a nest of Asian Hornets they may all come out to get you – all six thousand!
So what can I do?
First you can download the App from your favourite app store. Just search for “Asian Hornet”. Install it and look at the pictures of the Asian Hornet and also the insects which look like the Asian Hornet but are not a problem.
Secondly you can keep your eyes open when you are outside. You are looking for insect that looks a bit like a wasp but is bigger, has yellow socks and just one yellow/orange band on its abdomen.
And if I see one?
Report it immediately using the app, preferably with a photo.
Then what will happen?
The message will get to DEFRA who will notify the Regional Bee Inspector who will alert the local volunteer Asian Hornet Coordinators. They are ready to turn out at any time to check whether it was an Asian Hornet and then help to find the nest.
And when the nest is found?
At that point DEFRA send in the big guns with all the equipment they need to destroy the nest and all of its occupants.
Is there anything else I should know?
Yes the Asian Hornet is a bit bigger than a wasp but not as big as the Asian Giant Hornet which can be up to 40mm long. The Asian Giant Hornet does not have yellow socks and has several yellow bands on its abdomen. It is often shown illustrating articles about the Asian Hornet – and that is wrong.
Yes – do not go near a nest of Asian Hornets. Use the App to call an expert. Even bee keepers in their bee suits do not go near a nest.