SULPHUR dioxide is an effective method for combating the Asian hornet, says France’s national health and safety body despite the gas being banned for use earlier this year.
The Agence Nationale de Sécurité Sanitaire (Anses) had been asked by the government to decide on the best way of fighting the invasive hornet, which eats bees and other pollinating insects. Its ruling confirmed the view of many beekeepers, who had been using sulphur dioxide to kill hornets for years.
Beekeepers had been shocked in May when the government sent out a circular banning the substance, which had never formally been approved.
A leading member of national beekeepers’ body Unaf, Richard Legrand, said the Anses decision was “a real advance in the struggle against the Asian hornet”. He added that they were now waiting for a decision approving it from the Agriculture Ministry.
Asian hornets are thought to have arrived in France from Asia nine years ago and are now found in 60 departments. They continue to spread by around 100km a year.
Unaf say sulphur dioxide is the only way to destroying hornet nests located high up – sometimes more than 20m off the ground – without harming the environment.
Though it is toxic, Unaf says it is harmless to people and the environment if used correctly. It may have been used to destroy as many as 5,000 nests last year just in Aquitaine, researchers say.
Other methods of combatting the hornet include trapping them in the spring.
The hornet is not just a danger to bees and insects, but biodiversity in general, impacting on flower pollination and migratory birds. It is classified as a “second class health and safety danger”, meaning destroying them is strongly advised.