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Asian hornet reaches Italy

Asian hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax. Photo courtesy of: C Villemant, A Perrard, Q Rome, O Gargominy, J Hazaire, E Darrouzet & A Rortais.

News has just reached us from our Italian office of confirmed sightings of the Asian hornet in Liguria, northern Italy. Meanwhile Vita is making progress with an affordable Asian hornet trap .

As forecast by Vita in 2010, the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) is on the march (or flap?). It is thought to have arrived in Agen in France in 2004, having stowed away in some pottery sent from China. Within three years apiaries around Bordeaux were suffering up to 70% colony losses.

Since then, the hornet has been spreading at a pace of about 100km each year, probably often following river valleys since it seems to require lots of water. It  has reached northern Spain, Portugal, Belgium and was reported to have reached the gates of Paris last autumn.

It is very difficult to spot the hornet nests until leaves fall from their nesting trees in autumn.  But the damage they do is fairly unmistakeable: groups of five to 50 hornets hover in front of a hive, picking off single honeybees, decapitating them and stripping off their wings and legs before making off with the “meat ball” to their nest to feed their young. As the attacks continue, the honeybee colony stops flying and has to consume its own stores, eventually weakening it to such a point that an invasion force of many hornets enters the hive to rob it out.

Vita has a prototype Asian hornet trap that uses pheromones to ensnare the insect, and after a long search may be close to finding a manufacturer who can produce it at a cost that will be affordable to beekeepers. We will keep you informed.

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