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The Asian Hornet: A Beekeeper’s Defence Strategy

By Andrew Durham, Cambridgeshire BKA
Asian hornets have caused devastation in France, despite beekeepers’ best efforts. Their presence in the UK has prompted Andrew Durham to identify how we might defend our bees against these predators. In this article he shares his findings with us and presents a strategy for dealing with this pest, based upon his extensive research.

In September 2016 the Asian hornet was detected near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Its long-awaited arrival in the UK prompted me to research what it would mean to beekeepers if the hornet became established here. Information on the internet on Asian hornet seemed insubstantial and contradictory and so I looked to France where the ‘Frelon Asiatique’ has become irreversibly established over twelve years. It was immediately clear that the hornet was having a serious impact on French beekeepers. Apiaries were festooned with traps, hives were under netting or had strange muzzles attached, pictures abounded of bees under siege. French beekeeping associations painted a bleak picture of colonies seriously weakened, high over-wintering mortality and beekeepers’ livelihoods suffering substantial loss.

Defence of my apiaries was uppermost in my mind, but I was able to find little information in this country beyond mention of simple monitoring traps. Turning again to France for answers, I found a wealth of useful information, but not in any cohesive form. I wrote three articles for my local beekeeping association newsletter bringing together the results of months of research into a plan of action. Those articles are updated here in a two-part article, which gives the beekeeper a strategy for defence against the Asian hornet. I start with trapping founder queens close to likely hibernation sites, then focus on defences in the apiary and finally in the hive itself, matching defensive measures against the hornet’s attack as it develops over the course of the year. 

Information sources for the articles range from papers published by French research organisations to individual beekeeper’s blogs, some of which have provided surprisingly detailed information. An example of the latter is data from trapping trials held in fifteen communes located in the Dordogne in 2008 and 2009. In addition, a large amount of information came from French beekeeping associations and local authorities.

The impact of the arrival of the Asian hornet in this country on bees and beekeeping remains to be seen, but if the French experience is anything to go by, it will be significant. No beekeeper can afford to be indifferent to the Asian hornet.


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