We had a DARG (Devon Apicultural Research Group) meeting today at the Village Hall at Uplowman, near Tiverton. Our usual meeting room was packed with a score of us, the numbers having been swollen by a contingent from South Devon who had been hornet hunting in the Channel Isles in the summer.
As usual, we spent the first hour or so in informal natter as we were eating our picnic lunch. The lady sat next to me had her’s wrapped in waxed cloth that she had prepared herself. It’s very fashionable nowadays and I sold 24 ounces of beeswax to somebody a few days ago for that purpose. The shop where I get my breakfast cereals, seeds and fruit, Down to Earth, now uses recyclable waxed paper bags which I take back for refills.
Also close by was Tricia Nelson who is taking the lead in getting our revised edition of A Case of Hives ready for publication. She’s going to send me back my chapter on Top Bar Hives so I can get the pictures inserted in my preferred order.
At 1.30 the meeting began with Glyn Davies taking the chair as Richard Ball was unable to attend. Lynn Ingram gave us a slide show about Asian Hornets, their biology, hunting habits and how to hunt them down. Unfortunately her magic lantern wasn’t functioning as well as it should, leaving the pictures rather dark and murky. Maybe it needs a new wick. As usual they drew the curtains and turned the lights out so I have to write from memory rather than notes.
Once you have seen an Asian Hornet they are unmistakable: a little larger than wasp sized but black except for one yellow stripe towards the rear of the abdomen and a yellow face. They’re quite a bit smaller than our European hornet.
Hunting them, you need a bowl of suterra (a pink liquid) bait placed close to where a hornet was seen. A google aerial photo of the area will be handy, also a seat, your lunch, a stop watch and a compass.
Hornets at the bait are marked with a blob of paint, each differently so they can be identified individually. Their flight direction home is noted and the time it takes to return. They are guesstimated to travel at about 100 yards a minute. When you are sure of the direction, move a little closer. Also move off the line so you can apply triangulation to help pin point the nest.
Problems are that the hornets don’t always travel in straight lines but follow hedge lines etc; about half the nests are in urban areas and you can’t just walk through people’s gardens and when/if you find the nest it might not be accessible. The usual method is to approach with a cherry picker and clear away the blocking branches. Wait until it’s dusk and they’ve stopped flying. Block the entrance hole and drop the nest into a suitable sack.
There was concern that the Government is dragging its heels in simplifying the legislation to enable volunteers to hunt the hornets as there’ll never be enough Bee Inspectors with time to spare to do the job.
The effective bait, suterra (I’m guessing the spelling as I’ve never seen it written) is expensive. DARG has some, much of which was distributed to members last year. It is less expensive to order in bulk and the suggestion is that Devon and Somerset BKAs make a joint order. Dorset BKA’s Secretary, Liz Rescorla, was there also so perhaps Dorset BKA could be persuaded to join in.
The queen hornets will be emerging from hibernation in a month or so and it would be wise if we all placed traps in apiaries or back gardens where they can be checked frequently for Asian hornet queens and any beneficial insects inadvertently trapped can be released unharmed. Our BKA has obtained lots of traps for distribution to members. Others should do the same.