Denis Jaffré’s traps are unique as they catch the queens in spring thus avoiding having to deal with nests in summer – but they allow other insects to escape.
They have been welcomed as a way of fighting the hornets which eat bees and other pollinating insects while not harming other wildlife. Hornets are estimated to have killed 10-15% of bees in France.
The idea won this year’s Grand Prix du Concours Lépine for its effectiveness and originality.
Currently methods to destroy the nests involve insecticides which contaminate the environment and harm birds and small animals which eat the poisoned hornets.
Another option is having marksmen shoot at a nest but this is only possible in limited circumstances.
Mr Jaffré from Locmélar, Finistère has been investigating non-toxic solutions for years but increased his efforts after hornets destroyed a third of his hives in 2016.
The hornets’ rugby-ball shaped nests can produce 20,000 hornets over the season so trapping queens before nests are built is effective.
However, until now traps – often home-made – have been too indiscriminate. Mr Jaffré said: “I’ve been studying the behaviour of queens in spring for years. My trap is the only system that’s preventative. There is another trap on the market but it’s mostly used to catch worker hornets during summer.
“It’s down to the shape and dimensions of the entrance, which is perfectly matched to the body of the Asian hornet queen.
“The European hornet is bigger and cannot get in and, due to interlocking compartments, smaller insects can get out.”
He said the system can be used later in the year, also in a selective way, to catch workers and further protect hives.
Mr Jaffré, of La Miellerie du Pontic, said once production is up-and-running he will prioritise those who have pre-ordered. He will sell two essential funnel-shaped parts (see photo) for €9.60 and will give details of how to assemble a trap online (the other components are widely available).
It should be used with bait of wax and honey. I’d like them to be available to as many European people as possible to fight against this problem effectively,” he said.
He will give updates via his Facebook page (Jabeprode) and later at jabeprode.fr (it stands for ‘Jaffré’s Bee Protection Device’).
Asian hornets were first seen in south-west France in 2004 and are thought to have arrived in a Chinese shipment of pottery. They have spread by around 100km a year and are now in all regions.
They can pose a risk to people where someone comes across a nest accidentally, such as when cutting a hedge. “They attack straight away and you have a lot of stings very suddenly,” Mr Jaffré said.
Earlier this year a woman from Beauvais in the Oise nearly died after going into anaphylactic shock when she was stung at least a dozen times after disturbing a nest in a garden outbuilding. She called emergency services, a move which saved her life, before blacking out.
If you find a nest do not approach it but notify firefighters, the mairie or a pest control firm.
Asian hornets differ from native European hornets in that they have a smaller, darker body and their legs are dark at the top and yellow at the bottom.