BEEKEPERS will be on the lookout for the Asian hornet as part of a special effort to keep the invaders away from their hives.
Small bait stations will be handed out by the New Forest Beekeepers’ Association’s Asian Hornet Action Team to help stave off the threat of the invasive species. They prey on bees and were spotted last year in New Milton and Highcliffe.
The group has called on anyone interested in preserving bees to volunteer and get involved as part of a Forest-wide monitoring week starting on 10th April.
It will supply stations for beekeepers and residents to place on their window ledges that will attract wasps, the group said on its Facebook page.
“Hopefully we won’t see any Asian Hornets but if we do, there should be time to photograph them, and progress to the next stage,” it added.
The alert will be sounded if any are spotted and teams will be brought in to eliminate them because of the risk they pose bees and beekeepers’ livelihoods.
Beekeeping is popular in the district and the New Forest and District Beekeepers’ Association one of the biggest in England with about 200 members.
While the Asian hornet does not pose any more risk to human health than a bee and is smaller than the UK’s native hornet, it is an invasive species that attacks and kills honey bees and other pollinating creatures.
Native to China, it arrived in Europe in 2004 and is now widespread in parts of Spain, France, Portugal and the Channel Island.
The Asian hornet’s threatening presence can also deter bees from flying out of their hives for honey-making, costing beekeepers valuable yield.
Asian hornets have yellow-tipped legs with a dark brown or black velvety body and a yellow or orange band on the fourth segment of abdomen.
Previous sightings of Asian hornets include one in September 2018 when a tiny electrical device was used to track down a nest in Brockenhurst, which was destroyed.
A sighting in 2019 in Highcliffe prompted Defra to get involved because it was thought to be a queen Asian hornet.
The latter sparked a warning from Ivor Kemp, of the East Dorset Beekeepers Association. He highlighted how Asian Hornets had “devastated” French beekeepers and completely “wiped out” insect pollinators in Bordeaux.
The New Forest beekeepers said this April’s watch week will be repeated in May and another time in the summer. It stressed the bait stations are not kill traps.
Anyone who wants one of the bait stations should contact the Warwick Newson via AHAT@newforestbees.co.uk or 07976 258062.