Attention all gardeners – A Real Threat to Pollinators

Last summer it was impossible to escape the news of the threat to British honeybees from the Asian Hornet.  As a hobbyist (non-commercial) bee keeper myself, it has been the subject of much consternation and hyper vigilance down at our apiary. 

The hornets were first spotted in France in 2004, they most likely arrived from Asia on a cargo of wood or a container of wooden furniture. Since then, they have rapidly spread across the Channel, either on a helpful wind or it is believed by their own tenacity.  Out of its own native environment it is a predator and hunts medium size insects like bees, wasps, beetles and hornets. Here in the UK, it has no natural enemies. 

It is slightly smaller; @ 25mm, than a European hornet and has a yellow legs, a dark brown thorax and a very thin waist. 

Sightings started in Jersey and the South coast, currently Kent has the highest number of nests found but there have been a handful discovered in Yorkshire. Alarming statistics published by the British Bee Keepers Association show a massive leap from one nest discovered in June 2023 to just under 30 in September of the same year. 

Bee keepers from all over Europe are now united in their defence against this new menace and are sharing information, photographs and tricks they have learned to trace and track. All bee keepers are now setting up hanging jam jar traps containing a substance called Trappit in their gardens and encouraging their neighbours to do so as well.  However, despite our Dunkirk spirit soon it will not be possible to destroy every nest found and the government will have to think of other long-term solutions or invest in an Asian Hornet resistant breed of bees. 

The public have been told that a sting from an Asian Hornet is not dangerous to humans so consequently some may not take too much notice of them.  However, the threat to bees and consequently the food chain has long term consequences as honey bees are responsible for pollinating about 70% of the crops, fruit and vegetables we eat. 

The BBKA (British Bee Keepers Association) have a number of resources relating to Asian Hornets on their website to aid gardeners, dog walkers or indeed anyone who enjoys the outdoors to spot, trap, report and track them.