Britain is under threat of invasion by Asian Hornets. These honey-bee killers arrived in France in a consignment of pottery from China in 2004 and have since spread through France into most neighbouring countries.
Honey-bee colony mortality has been high. Estimates from Portugal alone suggest losses in honey production could reach €5 million.
In the UK we’ve been preparing for this invasion by establishing a ‘Dad’s Army’ of volunteer beekeepers to monitor for enemy incursions. The Ministry of Bees has even provided instructions on how to make home-made hornet traps.
Such amateurish devices have proven remarkably effective. Thus far Asian Hornets have been identified in two locations in South West England and their nests were quickly located and destroyed.
We won’t always be so lucky. The expectation is that the hornet will become established here, though climate may check it’s spread northwards.
There are limited options to help honey-bees defend themselves. Long grass in front of the hives and wire mesh cages over the hive entrance may help.
It seems we are going to have to rely upon the ‘Hive Guard’ to protect our bees. Armed with just badminton racquets, these unsung heroes of the beekeeping fraternity will position themselves in front of their hives and swat incoming hornets.
It’s brave but desperate strategy that will surely fail.
‘We’re all doomed!’