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Beekeepers in France deal with return of Asian hornets

Old-style traps are not recommended and beekeepers have created new ones that are very effective... but so are hens

Asian hornets are back with the rise in temperatures and causing alarm for beekeepers and householders.

Beekeepers can see hives wiped out by the frelon asiatique which hovers outside the hive and grabs bees in mid-air. But the hornets also claim about 10 human lives a year and now is the time to do something about them – but not by using a plastic bottle and beer.

Asian hornets are about 3cm long and a little smaller than the European hornet but are notable for their yellow bottom legs (see an identification guide from the Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle)

For the past few weeks apiarists have been busy trapping the queens, which have emerged from ground hibernation.

The typical round asian hornet nest will not be visible until later in the summer – when pest control companies will generally clear them for about €100 – but now is the time to trap queens. They are searching for sweet liquid food and a queen trapped now stops having a nest with hundreds of stinging hornets later.

Several types of trap have been suggested but the most common – using a plastic bottle and beer – kills bees and other insects as well as the hornet. Beekeepers are turning to home-made traps using a cone of wire mesh where insects enter but larger queen asian hornets cannot get out.

One type, created by beekeepers in Maine-et-Loire, has proved particularly effective as it uses mesh and plastic crates that are easily found and it uses honey and wax waste from the bottom of hives as bait. Once the hornets are collected the box is put in a freezer or water-filled container to kill them.

A similar product, created by a beekeeper in Locmélar, Finistère, has already been patented and has been put forward for the Concours Lépine inventors competition in Paris.

See how it works in this video from FranceTVinfo

Another method has been claimed to have 100% success in Auvers-sous-Montfaucon, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire, where a beekeeper put his hives round a farmer’s hen run to benefit from the different trees there for his honey.

He discovered that the hens would snap up any hornets they saw hovering at the hive entrance – and has now put 70 hives there. The farmer is getting a benefit, too, as he says he is seeing better pollination in his crops and also gets honey for himself.

Although prefects have been given authority to destroy nests they have no obligation to pay for the destruction although some departments, like Alpes-Maritimes, have organised their own service  and towns such as Caen will also take on the task. 

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