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BBKA Stoneleigh 8th February 2020

Notes from Asian Hornet Conference
As part of the preparation for the arrival of the Asian Hornet I attended the Asian Hornet Conference near Stoneleigh. There were very good speakers and below I have put the salient points from the speakers. I am sure I have not included all the said but hopefully I have covered most of it. One of the benefits of attending meetings such as this is the coffee breaks. I was able to put a face to a name where up to now we have only been in touch by email.

Professor Stephen Martin
Multi mating which takes place in the Asian Hornet and Honey Bees leads to a good genetic mix and thus improves their ability to adapt and survive in new environments.

A hibernating queen will fold her wings under her body and it is suspected that once the hibernation of the queen is disturbed she does not return to hibernation.

Within a month of being constructed the primary nest could hold up to 25 cells. The queen will produce more eggs as her ovaries develop right through to September.

There is a lot of research into ways of curtailing the development of the spread of the Asian Hornet. Possibilities include predators such as the Trigonalid Wasps but the majority of predators attack the colony but do not wipe it out. They do not want to destroy their food source. (Humans do not seem to have that much sense.)

Another possibility is Conopid Flies.

Nematodes are being considered but they need a secondary host and we would need to find a nematode that was species specific.

In Korea the spread of the Asian Hornet has not been as rapid as in France due to the competition from other hornets. Also the Korean bees, and the Greek bees, have the ability to ball the Asian Hornet - that is over heat it by forming a ball of bees around it.

The Asian Hornet has been found from sea level right up to 10,000 feet - versatile little bugger.

There is also research in to the Vespa Mandarinia found in Vancouver. Just arrived there and its spread is being closely monitored. There could be lessons learned from monitoring its spread.

Dr Xesus Feas
See his research. 

There seems to be a lot more information on the Asian Hornet in Galicia than there is on the Asian Hornet in France. A search on "Asian Hornet Galicia" does produce a lot of information.

In winter there may be hibernating queens in secondary nests which appear abandoned.

Galicia has major problems and in just 5 years the number of secondary nests has gone from 2 nests to 10,000(2016) nests by 2019 there were 25,000 nests.

The economic effect in Galicia was enormous with 65% of bee colonies affected as well as a significant effect on the agriculture economy.

Embryo nests can be found anywhere - not just sheds - back of garden chairs, in derelict cars/boats - you name it....

The Asian Hornet is not a bad insect any more than dandelions are weeds - they are just not wanted where they are.

Trapping as a way of monitoring is not advised as there is a risk that we will cause more damage through "bi-kill"or collateral damage. Far better to be ready with bait stations and monitor them. (I will be writing a separate page on this topic.)

Tree surgeons are at particular risk as running away when you are roped up a tree is not an option!

In Galicia some grape farmers have lost their complete crop of Alberino Grapes. The Asian Hornet eats the grapes and they also carry yeasts which can affect the extracted juice. They can also make harvesting hazardous.  We were told of a case where an apple farmer was carefully hand picking apples from a tree for a show. Whilst doing so he spotted an Asian Hornet nest higher in the tree. Had he not been picking by hand he would have been using a mechanical tree shaker and the consequences could have been very serious.

There was a considerable stress on the danger to humans - especially in urban areas and there were 5 deaths from Asian Hornet in Galicia in 2019.

They are catching so many Asian Hornets that they are investigating the possible uses of the chitin (hard exoskeleton). Very different from the two or three I saw last year.

Alistair Christie Jersey's Asian Hornet Action Team Coordinator
Reckons about 30% of primary nests become secondary nests. The channel islands also refer to tertiary nests which are those where they have not completely removed the secondary and the buggers come back. He sees the role of the AHAT coordinator as:

  • Media and Public Awareness
  •      See Facebook John De Carteret
  • Work in collaboration with volunteers
  • Direct efforts of volunteers
  • Arrange removal and destruction of nests
  • Collate records

The role of the volunteers is divided into:

  • Verifiers - is it really an Asian Hornet
  • Tracking Directors - decide where to put the bait stations.
  • Trappers -
  • Bait Station Managers

Software worth looking at as an Asian Hornet Action Team Coordinator is: Epicollect Indicia Google MyMaps What3Words

Belinda Philipson -DEFRA Policy Unit
In 2019 AHATs formed, "Local Contingency Boxes" assembled so that they can be rapidly deployed to site rather than wait for them to be delivered from York. This speeds up the deployment process - especially to areas on the South Coast such as ours.

Current process

Once there is a confirmed sighting an email is sent to local beekeepers and Beebase is updated. RBI and/or SBI investigate the backstory and contact the AHAT coordinator and the Town Council They then track the Asian Hornet to find the nest If necessary they will establish an FOB Forward Operating Base

Once the nest is located the the nest will be destroyed with Ficam D (Bendiocarb) that evening if possible. The destroyed nest is then removed and taken away for analysis. Surveillance traps are set up and monitored.

Confirmed sightings in 2019

  • In Tamworth the nest was 65 foot up a Spruce Tree and was the UK's highest nest. It contained a single queen mated by a single drone. In Ashford Kent it was a single Asian Hornet found feeding on a fallen pear.
  • In Christchurch the initial alert was 29th September Confirmation was 1st October Nest was located 3rd October Nest destroyed 4th October 2nd nest found 10metres away on 10th October Found by a Bee Inspector who trod on it and subsequently had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. Nest destroyed 11th October In the UK in 2019 there were 17 confirmed sightings and 9 destroyed nests. All Uk nests were unrelated - ie separate incursions. All queens found had not reached sexual maturity. There are no established populations in the UK and thus we are still in the eradication stage rather than containment.

Sandra Grey DEFRA Bee Health Policy
The Asian Hornet was included in the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation. This has now been brought into UK law and is classified as a Non-native Alien Invasive Species. We face greater risk in 2020 due to increasing population on the continent.

Anne Rowberry Chair of the BBKA
The BBKA are going to set up a certification scheme for AHAT Coordinators and Volunteers. There will be multiple option test and once completed and passed we will be sent a certificate - and more importantly we will be covered by the same insurance as covers us when we are swarm collecting. This will be limited to 15 volunteers in each division. All of this is in early days and not yet available on the website.


    • Why are the Asian Hornet particularly attracted to resin on trees?
    • Polypore fungus on the tree produces a something they really like- as do many other insects.
    • Why do we need insurance?
    • In case you tread on a nest and a member of the public is stung.
    • What is the process of communication following a confirmed sighting?
    • NBU will contact Asian Hornet coordinators which is why we must be on there. Once we have done the test we will be on BBKA as AHAT. They are looking into putting AHAT coordinators onto ER2 to make communication easier.
    • At what point will the NBU move from destruction to containment and how will this be done?
    • Do not know but the NBU are working on protocols for 2020 and there is an automatic review at the end of the year.

  • Will there be a transitional phase when the NBU pull out?
  • This is something they are looking at. It will not happen within a season since processes are reconsidered over winter and then instigated the following spring.
  • What other work are the BBKA doing for AHATs?
  • They are looking at preparing an action plan for AHAT coordinators and Anne Rowberry of Somerset BKA and a BBKA Trustee praised the preparedness of Devon and Somerset.
  • What are the chances of keeping the Asian Hornet out of the UK?
    • Dr Xesus Feas - good if the government continues their support.
    • Bob Hogg - praised the actions of the NBU and said the Channel Islands were doomed.
    • Alistair Christie - play for time and hope that a solution arrives before the Asian Hornet arrives
    • Belinda - stay vigilant Sandra - we are learning a lot from France.
  • What are the views on trapping?
  • Bait stations are better than traps because as Bob Hogg said- "You can ask a live Hornet where it lives". Put 6mm holes round the killing traps (can be done by heating a 6mm drill to hot and pushing it into trap side). The holes will resrtict the collateral damage.
  • What about publicity material?
  • NNSS will supply A3 laminated posters We should be stressing more than just the impact on bees but also on all pollinators and also humans who are stung.
  • Why the cluster on the Dorset Hampshire Border?
  • Proximity to the port. AHATs from the area are dubious of this explanation since the proximity to the port is an arc that distance from the port not a small zone.