BEEKEEPERS are appealing to the public to help them in their battle against the Asian hornet.
Members of the Central Somerset Beekeepers Association were at Wells Market on September 9 to highlight the dangers posed by Asian hornets and encourage the reporting of sightings.
“The Asian hornet is an invasive species which has covered most of southern Europe and is now here on mainland UK. It destroys hives, as these are easy targets, but it also eats other flying pollinators,” said Association Chair Nick Potts.
More nests have been discovered in the UK this year than in the previous six years combined. A single nest can contain up to 6,000 workers and 350 queens.
There are currently 45 confirmed nests in southern England but there may be others that have not yet been discovered.
“In mainland UK nearly all the nests have been found by tracking hornets which have been reported by members of the public,” said Nick.
“Our aim at Wells Market, as it was at the Mid Somerset Show, was to ask people to download the Asian Hornet Watch app, which is totally free, and photograph any flying insect with yellow legs, these are Asian hornets and should not be confused with European hornets which are much bigger.
“We probably spoke to over 500 people and the aim is to get everyone and anyone looking for the Asian hornet and reporting it. Pictures taken on the app which aren’t Asian hornets are not a problem as we would rather have 1,000 wrong ones to find one Asian hornet.”
An Asian hornet
Asian hornets look like large, black wasps with yellow legs, an orange face and an orange band on the body. European hornets are almost entirely yellow.
The British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) is warning of the threat not just to honey bees but also to people. It says that people should be cautious when picking blackberries and trimming hedges as many Asian hornet nests have been found in patches of brambles and in hedgerows, and there are fears that foragers and gardeners could inadvertently disturb a nest.
BBKA Chair Diane Drinkwater said: “Foragers and gardeners should check hedges carefully to avoid disturbing an Asian hornet nest. Normally they don’t attack, but if you are near a nest, or disturb it, they can become extremely aggressive and dangerous.”
She added: “Normally Asian hornets are not seen in the UK until the end of September but this year there has been an unprecedented number already.”
One hornet can devour up to 50 honey bees at a time, and she said: “Asian hornets are a top predator – they are the lions of the insect world.” “We need the public’s help,” she continued. “If you see an Asian hornet, take a photo and report it immediately using the Asian Hornet Watch phone app or via the BBKA’s website (bbka.org.uk).”