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Warning over asian hornets

Residents warned on danger as farmer killed when attacked while clearing brushwood – but now is time to destroy nests

PEOPLE in the countryside should take care pruning trees and clearing brushwood after a retired farmer died after being stung by asian hornets (frelons asiatiques) when he disturbed a hidden nest.

With leaves falling more and more of the nests being exposed, pompiers and departmental pest control experts have received calls the length of the country for help in dealing with the pests.

The hornet has spread rapidly across France after being introduced by accident at Bordeaux in a container shipment from China – and is now thought to cover nearly three-quarters of departments.

Philippe Grosvalet, president of Loire-Atlantique departmental council, has asked Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll to class the hornet as a “category 1 health danger” after the attack that killed Roger Voyer at Roche-sur-Yon.

Mr Voyer had been clearing brushwood when his tractor fork hit the nest and he was attacked.

The nests, which are often about the size of a basketball and made of paper-like material, are classed a category 2 nuisance at the moment, meaning they should be destroyed, but a new classification would see them targeted.

However, beekeepers associations say that the next two weeks is vital in getting rid of them as the queens are still in the nests. In a few days the queens will flee the cold to overwinter in a tree or building and the nest’s workers will die.

Beekeepers say one nest destroyed this autumn will prevent three or four next year and the hornets are known to kill bees.

Householders who spot a hornet nest should alert their mairie and call in pompiers if it is on public land and a private pest control firm if it is on their own land. They will ensure it is an asian hornet nest and destroy it, which should cost about €100. Some councils, such as Trignac, near Saint-Nazaire, will give help of €100 to get the nest destroyed.
Asian hornet and bee photo: Danel Solabarrieta CC BY-SA 2.0

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