Well, they’ve not been found so far this year as the queens are still dormant, tucked away in a plant pot in the nearby garden centre, or in a caravan that was brought back from France last Autumn. In about a month they’ll come out of hibernation and start to build their nests, which nobody will notice until too late unless WE get organised.
A couple of days ago, foolishly as I was short of sleep because of the lurgy, I drove 80 miles to Harberton in darkest Devon to a gathering of 200 beekeepers who were there to hear of the experience of Martyn Hocking who, last Autumn, had spotted an Asian hornet.
We learnt that the National Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS), the responsible body, refused to take any action until Martyn had provided positive evidence of the accuracy of his observation. Martyn, who was then recovering from an operation, got no help from his local BKA; the weather wasn’t helpful and every time he tried to take a photo the hornet moved out of focus. Consequently it was quite a while before he was able to provide the required evidence.
When convinced, the NNSS passed the buck rapidly to the National Bee Unit (NBU) who quickly gathered the local Bee Inspectors to track down the colony and kill it, fortunately before they had sent out a new crop of queens. It is understandable that the NBU doesn’t react instantly to every report as there were 2600 in 2016 and 4500 in 2017!
Reacting to this, the local BKA has set up a system (yet to be tested) for dealing efficiently and effectively with hornets that appear in their patch this year; but what about the rest of the country?
Despite knowledge of the Devon hornet incursion, there was no mention of the invasive Asian hornet at the recent BBKA Annual Delegates’ Meeting. There has been some recent internal strife and they appear to be concentrating their attention on their own naval rather on the needs of their members and their bees!
There are about 24,000 members of the BBKA, all of whom are potential spotters, plotters and swatters of the Asian hornet but, to be effective, we need training, teaming and coordinating and we need it QUICKLY!
Probably the local branches will need to be involved, but they’re all different, some being better organised and with more members than others and Murphy’s Law will ensure that a hornet queen will be lurking then working in the area of the least organised local BKA!
Therefore the BBKA, who have the resources and information, should rapidly take the lead in ensuring that the whole country has teams of trained hornet hunters ready to be vigilant and act in their own areas and to help their neighbours. Scotland and Wales should, of course, share the work and information.