Genetic flaw may slow Asian hornet

Insects’ invasion of France may be slowed due to problem with birth cycle

THE seemingly unstoppable Asian hornet may carry a genetic flaw that could slow its spread across France, researchers have found.

Since the arrival of one single female from China in the Lot-et-Garonne in 2004, the hornet has spread across 67 departments, directly attacking local wasp and hornet breeds, harming biodiversity and killing four people.

It has also been found in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Germany.

While the venom of the Asian hornet is less toxic than its European counterpart, the insect will attack en mass if provoked.

However researchers at the Université François Rabelais de Tours have found that the limited gene pool of the insects may have produced, or be carrying a flaw that may undermine their expansion.

The problem has occurred in the reproductive cycle of the hornets which should be reproducing in two distinct waves.

In the first wave, from spring to mid-August, workers are born to build and expand the nest, then from the end of August, males and females (the future queens) are born.

However researchers have found that in 68% of the nests studied in France, males were being produced at a time when only workers should be present.

As males do not build the nest, their presence in the first wave could slow the expansion of the species.

The researchers believe the mis-timed presence of the males could be down to a genetic flaw brought about by inbreeding.

Photo: Wiki/Didier Descouens