Asian Hornets

The Asian hornet (Vespa Velutina) is a species that is non-native to Europe. It arrived into France in 2004, whereupon it spread throughout much of continental Europe. The Asian hornet predates largely on honey bees and has ravaged the honey-bee population in the affected countries.

Despite the volume of transport across the English Channel, there have been surprisingly few incursions of Asian hornets into the UK from mainland Europe. Those that have arrived have been dealt with by the National Bee Unit (NBU) and related organisations. Currently, the genetic evidence shows that there is not an established population within the UK. With constant vigilance, we might be able to keep it that way.

Information regarding the latest and historical sightings is provided by DEFRA and APHA.

Naturally, beekeepers feel very protective towards their bees and want to do anything and everything that they can to fight this foreign foe. However, many actions that are being suggested or attempted are likely to be ineffective at best and will cause other problems, either for the beekeeper themselves or our native species.

The Leicestershire & Rutland Beekeepers Association has held several meetings to listen to the concerns of our members and has considered the advice of experts from Europe who have first-hand knowledge of dealing with Asian hornets.

LRBKA Asian Hornet Policy

Two legal points to remember

  • Sighting or believing that you have sighted an Asian hornet does not give you any legal power of entry to another person’s property to attempt to capture or photograph her.
  • If you capture an Asian hornet do not release her, you will be committing a crime under Section 14(1) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.  Place the trap in a freezer and contact the authorities.

Setting Traps in General

Setting traps as a matter of routine in an attempt to capture Asian hornets will trap a lot of bycatch, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of a huge number of native insects that are vital pollinators, all with their own roles to play. With the best will in the world, even a monitoring trap becomes a kill trap when it is not inspected and emptied every day.

Monitoring Traps

If our members must use a trap then we encourage them to use a monitoring trap.

There are a great many traps available from commercial sources, as well as build-your-own-trap instructions on the internet. Almost all of these are kill traps.

For a trap to be a monitoring trap rather than just a kill trap it needs at least the following two characteristics.

  • A platform to keep the trapped insects away from the bait.  Most trap bait is in liquid form. If an insect falls into the liquid bait then it will drown. Traps can be adapted to prevent this from happening by, for example, constructing a mesh platform above the liquid bait or inserting a porous material above the liquid bait (eg. glass wool).
  • Inspection and release on a daily basis. Inspect the trap for Asian hornets and, if none are present, release the trapped insects.  This is a commitment that is easy to make, but hard to achieve. 
Spring Traps

Asian hornet queens emerge from hibernation in spring and go about establishing their primary nest. The logic behind setting traps in spring is that every Asian hornet queen that is captured and killed represents another nest that is prevented from becoming established and producing a secondary nest.

We have listened to the advice of experienced experts and reached the following conclusion.

Spring trapping is pointless and harmful.

Pointless – only 1 Asian hornet queen out of every 100 will establish a viable secondary nest. Therefore, even if you do actually manage to trap an Asian hornet queen then it is highly unlikely that she would have established a nest from which sexuals (drones and virgin queens) would have emerged in the autumn.  Also, the genetic evidence shows that there is not yet an established Asian hornet population in the UK. So, there are no queens emerging from hibernation in the spring to trap.

Harmful – to all the other native species that will be trapped. In the spring, the mated queens (or females) of our native species that have hibernated through the winter will emerge. They are attracted to the same type of bait as is used for Asian hornets during springtime. Every queen bumble, wasp or European hornet or female hoverfly killed in a trap represents a nest or generation that will be lost. Though some might not care for some or all of these creatures, they are all vital pollinators and have their part to play. With the best will in the world, even a monitoring trap becomes a kill trap when it is not inspected and emptied every day.

Helping to Identify an Asian Hornet

If you are confident that you have seen an Asian hornet, have photographed an Asian hornet or that you have caught an Asian hornet then inform the authorities, PLUS please let LRBKA know through the following contact: secretary@LRBKA.org

A great many native insects are misidentified every year and reported as Asian Hornets.  If you are not confident that you have seen or caught an Asian Hornet and would like help with identification then please contact secretary@LRBKA.org

But remember, if you cannot reach anyone at LRBKA or are still uncertain as to whether what you have seen, caught or photographed is an Asian Hornet then contact the authorities via one of these methods.

How to Report an Asian Hornet

If you suspect you have seen, photographed or caught an Asian hornet you should report this:

  • using the Asian Hornet Watch app
  • sending an email

You can also report sightings by email: alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk

Please include information on location, date and number of Asian hornets you have seen. Please also include a photo if you can to help with identification of the insect.

  • using an online form

Alternatively, you can fill out an online report form.

If you find an Asian Hornet nest then do not try to remove it yourself – it can be dangerous and should only be done by experts. A conventional bee suit will not provide sufficient protection. As well as stinging, Asian hornets can spray their venom.