With the arrival of ‘killer’ Asian hornets threatening the UK’s honey bee population, one Staffordshire school teacher has taken it upon himself to do his bit for the world’s plant pollinators.
Lat week, The National Bee Unit confirmed the first sighting this year of a single Asian hornet in New Milton, Hampshire and has warned beekeepers across the country to be vigilant.
It is believed that the insect may have flown over from Jersey, an island in the English Channel, where around 80 Asian hornets have already been spotted this year, compared to just four in 2018.
Andrew Abraham, a geography teacher at Abbotsholme School near Rocester, warns of the challenges faced by honey bees in the UK if the Asian hornets become established here.
“Asian hornets are a concern. If or when they get established in the UK, they will have a devastating effect on ecosystems, they’re ferocious predators,” said Abraham, who has kept bees for three years.
The unpopular insect, indigenous to South East Asia, poses no greater threat to human health than a native hornet. However, they do pose a significant risk to honeybees and the production of honey.
A single hornet can eat up to 50 honeybees a day.
“Bees are essential pollinators, without them flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables wouldn’t get pollinated,” added Abraham.
“There are of course other pollinators, but honey bees live in much greater numbers, up to 70000 in a colony, which means they can visit vast numbers of flowers.”
North Staffordshire Beekeeping Association member, Abraham, believes that Asian Hornets pose a greater threat to the UK’s honey bee population than climate change.
“I think bees in this country will be able to handle climate change, but other regions will be less fortunate,” said Abraham.
“It is thought that two thirds of the worlds land area will receive reduced rainfall in the future which will have negative consequences for plants and the insects that depend on them.
“But here there are greater concerns over invasive species, such as Asian hornets that are already well established on the continent, small hive beetle and others that could post challenges to honeybees in the future.”
It is widely believed that Asian hornets, also known by their latin name, Vespa vuluntina, were accidentally brought to France from China in 2004, and have since made their way across the English Channel.
Nicola Spence, Defra deputy director for plant and bee health, said of the latest sighting: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets.
“That’s why we are working at speed to locate and investigate any nests in the New Milton area following this confirmed sighting.
“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies and other beneficial insects.
“Please continue to look out for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one, report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.”
For those interested in beekeeping, geography teacher Abraham warns of the level of commitment, but believes it is worth the effort.
“Join your local association and get some experience first, they’ll introduce you to bees and how to tend to them,” said Abraham.
“There’s a lot of work involved and a big-time commitment. Some think you can just put the bees in a hive and they’ll make you lots of honey, but it’s a lot more complicated than that.
“However, once you do get involved it’s a fascinating hobby which is very rewarding.”
If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet, you can report the sighting on app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’.
Alternatively, email your sighting to [email protected]