Report of Asian hornet meeting at Harberton Parish Hall, 20th Jan, 2018
The meeting was well attended by beekeepers from all over the South West, plus NBU staff and University staff involved with hornet research. It is difficult to condense 3 hours of presentations and discussion into a short report so we have opted for a list approach of relevant information and ideas that may be useful.
Reporting Asian hornet (AH) to the Non-Native Species Secretariat was a cause for concern. Initial report was not believed. This is not surprising as out of the 4500 reports of Asian hornet sightings in 2017 only ONE was valid! Reports must be accompanied by a photo or sample.
A child’s shrimping net was deemed to be suitable for catching hornets. Once caught, pop them in the freezer as you would for Nosema samples.
Hornet Behaviour: Sometimes hornets hawk in front of the hive before grabbing a bee. At other times they may hover beneath the hive before predating. They usually land on a nearby bush to remove the abdomen and head. They are only interested in the muscular thorax as food for their larvae.
Experience so far indicates that serious hive predation is only likely to be during August and September, possibly extending into October.
Asian Hornet Identification:
Often seen from above, so they appear quite dark and difficult to spot against the background. When stationary, the abdomen is easily seen as segmented with one yellow/orange band on the fourth segment but several narrow bands of yellow on the rear segments. All legs with yellow colouring is a good ID point. Note that the strap-like wings at rest are longer than the abdomen.
One suggestion is to keep a copy of hornet photos under your hive roof to aid identification.
Asian Hornet Life Cycle:
A nest may produce 500 new queens. 90 – 95% of these will die over winter.
65% of AH diet is insects other than honey bees.
There is a strong preference for nesting in urban areas.
Although AH often builds a nest in a tall tree they can also build them near the ground.
Queens favour Camellia blossom in spring so these bushes are a good place for traps.
Ivy flowers attract many insects in the autumn so are a good place to spot AH.
When the hive is under attack the bees adopt an aggressive pose on the front of the hive or alighting board. When one bee is attacked it sends out distress pheromone and other bees rush to help. This often drives the attacker off.
Baits and Traps:
Traps that kill all insects were seen as harmful to the ecosystem. Traps should be for monitoring only and native species released daily. Véto-pharma bait has been found to work well (http://www.veto-pharma.com/37-hornet-control ).
The Jersey method of finding AH nests.
Place an open dish with sugary bait and observe the direction of departing AH. Marking a hornet and observing the time taken to return to the dish may give clues as to distance.
Move the bait dish towards the nest site and repeat observations.
A group of people repeating this operation from several directions will narrow down the nest site location by triangulation.
In Vietnam, fire crews are using water jets to knock out AH nests!
The sting of AH is similar to that of our bees. It hurts. The length of the sting is said to be 6mm, long enough to go through most bee suits!
NEVER try to destroy an AH nest yourself. They will attack in large numbers.
The AH can project venom into the eyes of attackers by bending its abdomen forward.
RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds on websites may help with information about AH. There is an RSS feed button on Beebase and DARG also has a feed.
A recently published book, The Asian Hornet – Threats, Biology and Expansion by Professor Stephen Martin, gives all the information you require on the life cycle of the hornet. East Devon Beekeepers have a copy in the branch library (email@example.com) and a summary is published on the Asian Hornet page of the website.
BeeBase also has downloadable information sheets and images for identification purposes.
Simon Jones, South West RBI, will be running Bee Health Days again this year and AH will be on the agenda.
The GB Non-Native Species Secretariat ( http://www.nonnativespecies.org/alerts/index.cfm?id=4 ) has up to date details of AH incursions. Report sightings of AH to firstname.lastname@example.org with a photo and location details.
The Way Forward
The DBKA Executive will be releasing a hornet protocol in the near future for branches to utilise in their efforts to fight the AH. There will be further information available at the DBKA AGM on March 3rd. It is likely that ‘Asian Hornet Action Teams’ will be set up to help beekeepers manage the problem.
Asian Hornet Workshop
Held at the Bee Shed, 7th Jan 2017
Due to the possible arrival of the Asian hornet in the East Devon area in the coming year a Hornet workshop was held to bring members up to date with the latest thinking on what they can do to help their bees survive the new threat.
The NBU advocate putting up monitoring traps in late February to trap over-wintering queen hornets. At other times of the year the traps are used to reduce worker hornet numbers and ease the pressure on bees. More information on the Asian hornet page
John Badley started off with a short resumé of the key features of the monitoring traps (see photo) followed by a quick demonstration from Colin Osborne on constructing the traps. Participants were then let loose to make their own traps (see photos).
After a break for tea and cakes Richard Simpson spoke about suitable bait for the hornet traps. In the spring the emerging queens will be looking to increase their energy stores so sweet baits are appropriate then.
Later, the worker hornets will be looking for protein to feed their brood so added fish and other proteins will make for more efficient baits. Details are given below.
Asian Hornet Baits
Summer & Autumn: sweet + protein (fish or meat)
- DARK beer 50% + water
- Fruit cordial
- Overripe fruit
- Banana skin
- Packaged wasp bait (probably)
- Bitter, light beers
- Acidic fruit juices from concentrate (no zest and oil)
- Peppermint cordial or oil
- Colas and fizzy drinks
- Anything with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar
- Stale or overfull traps
Asian Hornet Baits – Recipes (from the internet)
- White wine, apple vinegar, and cassis
- Dark beer, 25% strawberry syrup, 25% orange liqueur
- Dark beer (50%) + water (50%) + honey?
- Liquid (as in any of above) , fruit + 25% mashed fish
- Mashed white and dark grapes + 1 nectarine + 100g honey?
Recipes with honey? may not be a good idea as bees may be attracted. However, baits that have fermented or contain vinegar/acetic acid are not attractive to bees. So if using honey, monitor for inadvertent capture or add cider vinegar.
A dose-response experiment carried out in France showed that funnel traps captured significantly more hornets as the concentration of an apple juice bait was increased. 50% or higher was most effective with a dose level of 200 ml per trap.
Hints and tips
- One of the best bottles we have found to make the NBU design of trap is the LIDL Lemonade bottle, or look for Buxton Water which has a distinct waist.
- To kill any specimens you have caught place the whole trap in a plastic bag and keep in a freezer over night. That way you don’t get stung.
- To make the trap less complex make one 5mm escape hole in the side and cover with duct tape if not required.