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Beekeeping with Asian hornets in France

After I wrote about the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) entering Great Britain, a beekeeper living in southern France wrote to me about his five-year struggle with these aggressive bee eaters.

Michael Judd, originally from England, keeps ten hives at an elevation of 789 meters (2588 feet) under a small wild-flower-covered mountain near the village of St. Vallier. These higher elevation hives have remained free of the hornets. But he also keeps a couple of small hives in his backyard where the hornets thrive. Here in his backyard is where he has been experimenting with control measures.

Sadly, Michael had an inauspicious beginning with hornet control. His local bee association in cooperation with the government started a program to research solutions to the hornets. Michael signed up for an experiment and agreed to follow all the rules. As a result, he lost all four of his garden hives.

Furious with the deal, Michael asked for compensation. Although none came, he was introduced to a local beekeeper with 70 colonies who builds hives and raises queens and nucs. Even better, he is actively developing ways to deal with hornets. Happily, the ensuing friendship outweighed the loss of Michael’s experimental colonies.

Here is Michael’s take on controlling Asian hornets.


I have lived with Asian hornets for about five years. At first, I lost five hives, then I improved the defenses and so did the bees

The first thing to know about the Asiatic hornet is that, unlike its European counterpart, it hovers in front of a bee hive. This makes for the first line of defense for the beekeeper. A badminton racquet makes it really easy to swat them. I am fortunate that I can have bee hives in my garden so my physical presence gives me the ability to visit often during the day and swat them. A more remote location makes this somewhat difficult.

The Asian hornet life cycle

Asian hornets all die off at the end of the summer, in my case around the end of October. A mated queen or queens then go and hide in a tree or in the ground. They emerge in spring (about April) and search for a place to make a temporary nest. This is a small one, possibly the size of a golf ball. She lays a few eggs there, yielding 6 or 8 hornets. They then search for firstly food and secondly a place, usually high up a tree, to make the main nest.

The hornets are said to only want protein at the end of the summer. Before that they feed just like bees and sometimes together on the same plant. I spotted them in April (South of France near Nice) on a plant that was flowering.

Trapping the queens

I put out a trap made out of a plastic water bottle with a bought product that is a special hornet attractive. This is important, as catching the queens at this time reduces the chance of a large colony being formed. At his time of the year I catch and also swat a reasonable number of hornets, sometimes up to 10 a week. Once the main colony has been formed, with a nest that can be several feet round, there seems to be little chance of finding the nest, which is usually high up in a tree.

For a while during the early summer the hornets seem to disappear. But not completely, as from time to time I see one or two around my hives at the other side of my garden. But by the time mid July/August comes along the hornets can be seen flying about the hives.

The attack

The hornet hovers outside the hive and awaits a departing or returning bee and catches it in mid air. It takes the bee to a tree where it takes the wings and head off and then the hornet takes the bee to its nest.

The hornet will only go into the hive when the bees are very weak, not flying, and unable to attack in numbers. I have seen the bees on an entrance or inside the muzzle (see below) attack and kill a hornet, so generally the hornets do not seem to like going in the hive. However, I notice that at this time of year, mid to late September, the hornets are desperate for protein and they get more bold.

How the honey bees react

The reaction of the bees is to feel trapped in the hive. There is a siege going on and their flights are down to an unsustainable minimum. Without any action, the colony will simply reduce in strength until it fades away.  In my first year, I found 2 or 3 very small (the size of a tennis ball) swarms in the garden. I got the impression they swarmed out of total desperation. At other times the bees ate all their stores and simply died.

I have noted and read on blogs that up to about 3 hornets around a hive allows the bees to more or less fly normally, but any more than that forces the bees to stay in the hive.

Control measures

First, I put out several traps. Some made of plastic water bottles and some purpose-built wasp traps. I use two different liquids. The first is an “attractive” bought from my bee association. Sometimes I add a little honey-soaked beeswax. The second is a mixture of white wine, apple vinegar, and cassis. Both of these work very well. A lot of people recommend beer, but I find that it does not work. This year I put both mixtures out in 6 traps (3 each).  At the height of the rush, I was catching between 10 and 20 a day.

The next thing I do is to reduce the entrance to the hive. This, of course, makes it easier for the bees to defend their entrance. Then I add what the French call a “muzzle.” It is a wire contraption (see photo) with the holes in the wire measuring 13 mm square (0.5 inch). This allows the bees to enter, but the much bigger hornets are very reluctant to enter as the bees attack them inside. This allows the bees a safe area where they can see the hovering hornet, and either go the other way or exit later.

The bees’ line of defense

What I noticed with one of my hives which had Italian bees is that they set up a line of bees on the floor of the muzzle and this acted as a defense and landing and take off strip for arriving and departing bees. They ware also in position in large numbers to attack any hornet silly enough to get too close. It seems to take the bees about 20 minutes to kill a hornet. It is also interesting to note that a guard bee is often seen scouting around the hive after I have swatted hornets. The scout appears to give the “all clear” when she does not see any more hornets.

This year I noticed that the hornets, rather than hovering directly in front of the hive entrance while waiting for a returning bee, would hover underneath the hive. I found it therefore impossible to swat them with my badminton racquet. So I took a piece of old bed sheet and cut it to fit to the base of the hive and tall enough to get to the ground. I put a skirt on the back and front of the hive. This really seemed to annoy the hornets as they attacked the sheet and could not get to the bees. The result, for me, was they had to hover in front to the entrance and I could swat them easily.

I would also note that when I approach the hive with my badminton racquet, the bees would not react. I would calmly swat, say, a couple or more hornets and the rest would disappear. They are very frightened of me, it seems. The other thing I noticed was if, for example, there were three hornets in the area and I swatted all three, it would take over an hour before any hornets returned.

Everything taken together

The object of all the defenses is to make it more difficult for the hornet to be able to sustain an attack. To this end, I have been moderately successful as I have kept hives operating, harvested honey, and got the colony through the winter..

None of these measures on their own make much difference. However all measures together allowed me to keep the hive strong. In early spring I had 4 hives in my garden and I took 3 of them to another location where I keep most of my hives. At this location (16 kilometers away and 780 meters above sea level) for reasons unknown, there are no hornets yet, so I moved 3 away for safety.

Michael Judd

michael-judd-3
Here you can see hornet “muzzles” on the hives. The bees pass through freely, but the hornets are reluctant. © Michael Judd.
michael-judd-2
Here you can see a fabric skirt added to the front and back of the hive to prevent the hornets from hanging around underneath. This made it easier to swat the hornets. © Michael Judd.
michael-judd-1
The honey bees set up lines of defense to guard against the hornets. It takes about 20 minutes for the honey bees to kill one. © Michael Judd.

Comments

John S
Reply

Excellent post! I assume it is only a matter of time before we have to add this pest to our list of predators. This summer I noticed very similar behavior in front of my hives from European Hornets. They hoover right in front of the hive and will take a bee right out of the air. There were not enough of them to become too much of an issue but I will make hornet traps this winter and have them on standby next year. Thanks Rusty for the follow up post about Michael’s success.
John

Philippa Burgess
Reply

The Tetbury area here in the UK is only 40 miles from me and my hives and I have had a few sleepless nights worrying about what could become of them and what precautions I could take. France has been dealing with these marauders for 12 years now and I was curious to know what measures they had developed to keep their numbers down. Looks like I’ll be making some traps and wire cages this winter in time for spring just in case this sighting is not a one-off. The badminton racket is going on my Christmas list (thank you for the tip Michael!) but perhaps with a slight modification. My father being an electrical engineering and always up for modifying things, will be tasked with electrifying it – a bit like a giant battery powered fly-swatter! Let’s see how they like karma.
Hopefully I’ll never have to use it.

Michael Judd
Reply

Philippa,

Good luck with the electrification. I have tried an electric mosquito racquet on the Hornets it does work although it seems to stun them and you need to find them to finish the job. I use it in the house when the hornet is on a window, which is rare. Someone, somewhere on the ‘net proposed a large electrified net behind or beside a hive. It was not deemed practical as most hives are in numbers and also in remote locations with no electricity. It is a good idea anyway.

Philippa Burgess
Reply

I forgot to mention that I use these traps on my sentinel hives:
http://www.vita-europe.com/products/apishield-hornet-trap/
I’m considering expanding the number of traps to alternate hives. They are fantastic at catching and trapping wasps (I think you refer to them as yellow jackets?). They work by setting up false entrances and so far this year they’ve trapped 400+ in one trap!
I definitely recommend them for normal hives and they are supposed to help catch the European and Asian hornet too. I don’t think they make a trap for nuc boxes (yet) unless you put 2 wooden nuc boxes on one trap.

Kyle
Reply

I just hope they don’t jump the ocean or if/when they do the practices to defend our hives is already developed.

Amy
Reply

Michael’s account of his experience with the Asian Hornet reminds me a little bit of an experience (on a much smaller scale) I had this summer. For the first time in my garden, I had “bee killers.” I saw only two and they were of different species.

The first one I noticed is known appeared to be a “Florida bee killer”, Mallophora bomboides. The second one appeared to be a “southern bee killer”, Mallophora orcina. I had never seen these insects before. I would be curious to know if anyone else has ever had experiences with these insects in their gardens.

I have a relatively small flower/herb garden (Richmond, VA, USA) which usually attracts a large variety of bees – and, many of them. In late July, I suddenly noticed the bee population had plummeted and I wondered what could be the cause of the decline…until I got a glimpse of the bee killers. I was eventually able to dispose of the bee killers (both of which had a honey bee in their grasp when I caught them), but very few bees have returned.

I would be interested to know if anyone else has ever seen these insects in their garden or around hives in their yard. I know they have been known to attack the hives of professional bee keepers. More information and pictures can be found at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/flies/bee_killers.htm

Amy

Rusty
Reply

Amy,

Yes, these predators are around and I hear about them now and then; I’ve even seen a few. I always called them “robber flies” although both common names are in use. They are considered a minor predator on bees. There is a post with beekeeper photos of them.

Tom
Reply

Very interesting article about a pest that we might eventually have to deal with here in the US. I wonder if you could use a drone to attempt to find the hornet nest up in the tree? Maybe you could hit a few with the drone as it flies.

Michael Judd
Reply

Tom,

Brilliant ! Could a drone carry a heat sensor?

Dieter
Reply

What puzzles me, how come the Asian Hornet has not made it into Western Europe on their own until recently in centuries/millenniums past. It is one land mass, no water bodies to stop them.

Also predatory wasps/hornets have been labelled as “beneficial” since they take a lot of pest insects. For this very reason wasps are protected by law in other jurisdictions.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a beekeeper myself. I just try to get a better understanding of the issue as a whole.

Rusty
Reply

Dieter,

My guess is that unsuitable habitat stopped them, things like deserts and mountains. But once aircraft began carrying merchandise they could hide in, things like lumber and plants, then it was a piece of cake.

Michael Judd
Reply

They actually came into France at Bordeaux on a shipment of timber from china.

Emily
Reply

Extremely useful tips – hope they won’t reach us in London next year but is only a matter of time.

Michael Judd
Reply

John,

Thank you, although I would not call it a success yet, but only progress.

I am interested that you have seen European hornets starting to hover, where before they flew like a ‘plane, but still managing to catch a bee mid air!

I will investigate.

Michael Judd
Reply

John,
Your comment about European Hornets hovering worried me greatly. I did not want to answer until I was sure. I do not see many here but they have been in evidence in the past weeks. I swatted a couple today to make certain. They are much easier to see and distinguish from the Asian ones, as their bodies are much more yellow and their legs are not yellow.

What I saw was distinctly different from the “fly by at speed” that I saw in years gone by. They were not hovering as well as the Asians. They were flying sideways in a right and left horizontal manner over a distance of 3 to 4 inches in front of the hive.

What worries me is whether they learned this by watching the Asian Hornet or much worse did they learn it from inbreeding. Whichever it is it is a worrying development. I am sure Rusty will see this!

Rusty
Reply

Michael & John,

Interesting observations. The side-to-side movement is fairly common in wasps and it sometimes can be seen in honey bees that are in the process of robbing. It’s one of the ways you can often distinguish robber bees from orienting bees. But I think your observations deserve a closer look. Inbreeding among the hornets would definitely be worrisome.

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty,
Wow, It is most interesting that you connect the sideways movement to wasps and bee robbers. It is all getting worrisome, as you say.

SuEllen Lithgoe
Reply

I enjoy your newsletters and forward them on to fellow beekeepers.

I live in south Louisiana where we do not have Asian hornets – yet! Like the migration of “killer bees” from Central & South America and Mexico, hornets may show up here one day. To this end I say, “Than you for the information and the photos you share with beekeepers across the world.”

Looking forward to your continuing articles, and happy beekeeping,

SuEllen Lithgoe
CABA (Capital Area Beekeepers’ Assn) Member

Rusty
Reply

Thank you, SuEllen. But remember, I couldn’t do this without the generous contributions from beekeepers everywhere. It really makes a difference.

Danielle
Reply

MIchael,

Will you explain how you made the muzzles and how to attach them? I want to try this.

Michael Judd
Reply

Danielle,

They are made by cutting and bending the wire into shape. I did this under the watchful eye of my bee Mentor ! So it is not my construction exactly.

When the wire is cut you round the bits on itself. Then add piece of ply wood as the landing area the bars of wood on top allow attachment to the hive. My mentor attached a metal L to the hive and clipped the wooden bars on that.

I actually used strong sticky tape reinforced but a couple of staples.

I could take a few close up photos of one, and ask Rusty if it was possible to post them on Honey Bee Suite.

Rusty
Reply

Michael,

Photos would be great! Thank you.

Kent Bishop (via Facebook)
Reply

Great article. I have large hornets here in western N. C. THAT ARE EATING MY BEES.

Janet Hofmann (via Facebook)
Reply

Love the badmitton racket. I would enjoy that.

Diana
Reply

My mentor in Virginia uses one of these, Electronic Racket Zapper:

It’s going on my list of things I need.

Amanda
Reply

Very interesting account, thank you Michael, and I’ve circulated this link to our branch members. I wondered about the ‘muzzles’ – do they not slow down the bees as they go through, making it easier, presumably, for the hornets to grab one?

Michael Judd
Reply

Actually, the wire does slow the bee’s entrance down sometimes. But you will not be surprised to hear that the bees enter and depart from angles I would never have thought of, ie they walk in from the side.

The other thing to notice if you look at the 2nd and 3rd photos you will see a line of bees from the actual entrance to the wire of the muzzle. This is the bees’ own defense system. The hornets rarely get close enough to the wire of the muzzle. If they do then the bees attack them in numbers and the hornet is dragged in to either suffocation by a hot ball of bees or of stings.

Ted
Reply

My hives are about 6 miles from the area where these little menaces have been found in Tetbury so I am on high alert

This article is very helpful just in case…..

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Good luck Ted. The National Bee Unit have confirmed 6 other sightings all within 500 m of the original sighting so there must be a nest somewhere. They have set up a control centre and are working a 3 mile radius to find it. I fear it will be too late as the nest is most likely raising its queens for next year and some of them may have already left to find somewhere to hibernate. The NBU are recommending setting up traps now with 25% fish bait.

Rusty
Reply

Philippa,

Thanks for the update. Let us know if they find the nest.

Dieter
Reply

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips have been attached to tens of thousands of bees in Australia, New Zealand and likely elsewhere to better understand their movements, life and behavior.

How about catching the odd hornet and attach a RFID chip to its back and let the hornet guide you back to its nest. Then position a flame thrower or other artillery and – game over! This way you don’t need observation posts, other than to catch the initial hornet. Bee hives may well serve as a bait.

If this was promising and efficient and done right away with sufficient resources you may even eradicate them again before they have spread too far.

Rusty
Reply

Dieter,

Actually a very good idea. It would be worth the price.

Dieter
Reply

So then, whom should the proposal be presented to?
After all, time is of the essence. If there are still hornets around this time of the year it would be worth a “proof of concept” trial.
If successful it may also be applied to other honey bee predators.

Michael Judd
Reply

Philippa,

Fish bait is interesting. Why fish I wonder? I have heard there is the thought of using meat based bait with the Hornet taking it back to the nest. Sounds very good until you go to the next stage. (I am sure you are not suggesting simply feeding the hornets to keep them away from the bees.) What is the “poison” in the bait that then kill the hornets? The problem is, I believe and with respect, that this poison gets into all sorts of other species like birds and perhaps into bees as well.

There is an ant poison that the ant takes home and it is said that the nest dies completely. I have to say that that product appears to work.

Rusty
Reply

Michael,

Maybe I’m missing something, but I didn’t read poison into this. I thought Philippa implied that the fish is used as an attractant in a trap, much like you use vinegar or cassis.

Philippa Burgess
Reply

The advice I posted is what is being recommended by our government Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ National Bee Unit. The 25% fish bait is to be used in an Asian hornet trap.
http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?pageid=208
The idea being to trap and therefore kill any Asian hornets attracted to the trap – not to feed them (that’she the last thing we want to do!) There is significant evidence to suggest that traps placed now or early spring can make large gains in reducing yhe AH population. I presume that fish bait will be smelly enough to lure them in!

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Dieter,

That is a fabulous suggestion! I have emailed your suggestion (and a link to this page – I hope you don’t mind Rusty) just in case they haven’t thought of it to the reporting email:
alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk
Philippa

Dieter
Reply

The specific chips they are using for bees may not be suitable. They had to be kept small and light enough so as to not hinder the bees in their endeavors. The range w/in which they can be read apparently is only 30 cm.
However, hornets could be saddled with heavier chips allowing more remote monitoring. After all its supposed to be a one way trip for them anyway. They are attaching all kinds of chips onto all kinds of animals, small and large, including fish and birds, in Banff National Park, Canada, and monitor them remotely. If this approach proves successful it may be modified and applied to other pests going after our bees as well.
http://www.zdnet.com/article/intel-and-csiro-create-rfid-bee-backpacks-with-edison/
http://www.hitachi.com/businesses/innovation/case_studies/hitachis-ultra-small-rfid-to-support-global-research-on-bees/

Philippa Burgess
Reply

September 2016 – Asian hornet nest found and destroyed
Update from the National Bee Unit
An Asian hornet nest has been located and destroyed by experts in the Tetbury area. The nest was found at the top of a 55 foot tall conifer tree. Inspectors from the National Bee Unit are continuing to monitor the area for Asian hornets alongside local beekeepers. However to date, no live hornets have been seen since the nest was removed.

Let’s hope no Queens got away to hibernate. Still going to set up traps and electrify that badminton racket!

Dieter
Reply

Any word as to how they found the nest 55 m up inside the branches of a coniferous tree? What size are these nests? Grapefruit size? Soccer ball? Bigger? How did they destroy it?

Rusty
Reply

More like 55 feet, I think.

Dieter
Reply

Of course. 55 m would be more what you find in the redwoods in California. It’s more like 18 m. I overlooked that in the UK everything is still funny, whether it’s feet, Fahrenheit, or what have you.

Rusty

Dieter,

That’s one way to look at it, but we’re about the only country left that doesn’t use the metric system. I think we’re the weird ones.

Michael Judd
Reply

I think it was me that misunderstood. I am sorry that I missed the point of the fish.
Michael

Philippa Burgess
Reply

No harm done.☺

Michael Judd
Reply

Thank you, I got distracted as there have been thoughts of meat based lures with poison to kill off the nest. Any way I have just seen your latest post about a nest being found and distroyed. That is seriously good work. Please can we borrow that unit for France. If you have that sort of response in the UK then beekeepers have a chance – wonderful.
Michael

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Rusty,

There are a couple of photos. Can I send them to you to upload?

Rusty
Reply

Philippa,

I sent you an email.

Sue Steel
Reply

Thank you everyone – and especially Rusty and Michael. What a brilliant community this is!
I have two bee hives in Norfolk UK having started keeping bees again only this year and it seems likely the Asian Hornets will spread across the country as varroa did. I have my hives at the end of our garden so like Michael I’m able to go and visit them several times a day when I’m home. (Is this why I’m not getting much else done??)

Rusty
Reply

Sue,

Bees are certainly the reason I don’t get anything else done.

Philippa Burgess
Reply

We have had a second sighting in the UK. The second one is 25 miles as the crow flies, south of the Bath area. This is not good news.

Rusty
Reply

Philippa,

That is so sad and scary. You’re right, it is really bad news. I expect we will find them over here soon. Any time, really.

Philippa Burgess
Reply

I hope for the bees’ sake they don’t ever reach you. Ironically though if they do, you might have a defence. The Africanised honey bee that’s working it’s way up your country may well be able to defend against the hornet due to their increased aggression (?). Who knows?

I wonder if the next generation of honey bee experiments will be to cross the European honey bee with the Asian honey bee to introduce the heat balling trait that they carry out to defend their hives? If they do, lets hope there aren’t any other nasty traits that follow.

Here in the UK, I feel our bees are on borrowed time. The introduction of the Buckfast bee to make beekeeping more enjoyable for us humans and allow us to keep bees relatively safely in urban areas may well be our downfall.

Until then though, traps a plenty, entrance guards, vigilance and an electrified badminton racket! It ain’t over yet!!! ☺

Michael Judd
Reply

I totally agree with you. Although I am not an expert in cross breeding bees etc and your thoughts sound somewhat terrifying to an ordinary guy like me.
I would note that we seem to have two types of bees here (one of them is Italian). In spring I moved three hives of non Italian bees away from my garden. For some reason I kept the Italians ( perhaps a selfish wish to have some bees near me). The resulting changed behaviour from last year is quite astonishing. As you will see on my photo on this blog they formed a line 3/4 wide and the width of the muzzle from the hive entrance to the front of the muzzle. They climbed up the wire and sat and fanned there. They became a landing and take off ramp for bees. They could watch for hornets and actually catch them. They did not form the hot ball but about 6 to 8 bees surrounded the hornet and nearly killed it and sometimes did. The other thing I noticed was that after I had cleared the hornets away with my racquet, the usual guard bees would be as usual on the entrance as one would expect. However a new practice emerged with my lovely Italians. A guard bee would take off and fly virtually all around and even under the hive having a good look for hornets. So it would seem to me that these wonderful creatures are adapting all by themselves to the threat. Don’t you just love them !

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Rusty/Michael,

A bit more information literally just released on the fish bait lure from our National Bee Unit:

It is very important that beekeepers remain vigilant and monitor their apiaries and surrounding forage for any Asian hornet activity. At this time of the year, Asian hornets can be seen foraging on the ivy for nectar and preying on other foraging insects for protein.

Traps should also be hung out and closely monitored. When using bait, please refrain from using light beer or lager mixed with sugar as this does not work. In France a Dark beer, mixed with 25ml of strawberry syrup and 25ml of orange liqueur has proven to work well.

Additionally, a protein bait of mashed fish e.g. prawns or trout, diluted to 25% has also proven effective.

So presumably 1 part fish: 3 parts water to make the fish bait lure.

Philippa

Michael Judd
Reply

Philippa,
I think we are on to something here. It seems apparent to me that different lure mixtures work in different places/temperatures/height above sea level and time of year.

I came home and bought some sardines. I simply cut them up and put them in two of my traps. In two and a half days I caught 12 hornets. Not a great success! My thinking was sardines were the most smelly and all alone would, shall we say, develop more smell!

I used a mixture of white wine, cassis, and apple vinegar in my taps during the summer. This worked very well (I had to regularly empty the traps acounting 50 in two traps ). But the second time I made a mixture up the (in late august) it did not work at all. The hornets diet may have changed to protein or I got the mixture wrong.

I think we need people to give the exact recipes, and the location /temperatures and height above sea level, and what time of year it was when it worked, along with the numbers caught against the numbers seen around the hive.

I am not sure how to achieve this as there does seem to be times or places that lure mixtures work or don’t work.

Michael

Michael Judd
Reply

Philippa,

It is terrible to read that another nest has been found. Sadly, I am afraid that there being only one nest in the area was a forlorn hope. What must be good news is that the Bee Unit is actually finding nests. People in this part of the world only seem to find nests when the leaves fall and all the hornets have long since gone (and mated queens into their winter resting place). As a result UK beekeepers are informed and can try to prepare themselves. My heart goes out to everybody there.

On another note I got home yesterday after my long weekend in London. I had a badminton frenzy and bought a few sardines. I put cut up sardines into two traps and by the evening I had caught one hornet. Hopefully the sardines will become more smelly and I will be able to report more captured hornets.

As the Bee Unit points out, it is important to find where the founding queens are feeding in early spring. I am sure that the number of hornets attacking my hives is down this year because I caught a lot in April.

I am sorry to say that the battle is won but the war will go on.
You have my hopes and best wishes.

Michael

Rusty
Reply

Philippa and Michael,

Even with regular yellowjackets (which you call wasps) I have found that killing queens in the spring gives me the best results in autumn. With fewer nests, the density of predators goes way down. If I had to deal with Asian hornets, that is the first thing I would try.

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty,

Firstly, I thought yellowjackets were quite large and probably the American equivalent to our European hornet. Anyway. I absolutely endorse what you say about putting traps out in spring. The important thing is to find a place that they go to feed in spring and put out traps. I did this exactly that last spring and the result was significantly less Hornets later in the year. BTW the French say they got the same results as well.

Rusty
Reply

Michael,

Lots of things are called yellowjackets, but most are about the size of honey bee or a smaller.

Ted
Reply

I am sad that this is another foe we bees and beeks have to face but in reality it’s just another in a long line of “disasters” that have threatened us over the years. Don’t forget Isle of Wight disease that wiped out thousands of colonies early last century or the tales of woe that arrived with Varroa.

All have been dealt with by changes in husbandry. Let’s hope that this will be the same. Now where is my badminton raquet ?

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Rusty/Michael,

Thank you both. I’ll be setting up some smelly fish bait traps myself as well as using my Apishield hornet/wasp traps this weekend. I’ve bought some more of the Apishield traps as this second discovery is only a handful of miles from my ‘out’ apiary so the bees are kinda on their own as I only visit once a week. I feel that where I live we could be in the epi-centre (Avonmouth docks only being a few miles from Bristol and possibly brought them in on a shipment). I am grateful that the National Bee Unit is pulling out all the stops and I am trying to encourage my company (the local water company) to put up traps as we have lots of sites around both areas where the hornets were discovered. I’ll keep you posted if there is any more news as it seems there are quite a few Brits that follow your blog Rusty.

Kind regards,

Philippa

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Michael,

Let me know how the sardine solution works. I’m going to try some prawns as they are known to pong!
On another note, as part of your experiments with you Beekeeper friend, is it worth trying one of the Apishield wasp/hornet traps that I posted earlier? I’ve got 4 which I place on my sentinel hives (and therefore more exposed) in both apiaries – perhaps it may help to protect your last hive in your back garden. The traps use dummy entrances so the hornets enter what they think is an unprotected entrance and can’t get out and die of dehydration. This also means that they can’t get back to the hornet nest to inform the others of the nearest honey bee entrees!

Just a thought as I have no idea if they work on the hornets but they are great at catching wasps/yellow jackets – would be good to have some proof before I go buying a load more!!!

Philippa

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty /Philippa,
I can now report a little on the fish bait. For the first 3 days I seemed to catch about 12 Hornets, although on a body count it did not come to that number. Puzzling ! I then mashed up the sardines and added a proportion of water. In the two following days I believe I caught one. Not very good.
This is inconclusive as I believe that something else happened at the same time. The weather changed. I am not sure of the conclusions but report my observations. Quite suddenly cloudy and a little stormy and much cooler weather arrived. Day time temperatures went down to less that 20 deg C and night time to 10/12 deg C. This for this month is quite extreme and not expected until November. Mosquitoes all but disappeared. It has been widely reported that further North in the Alps that snow has fallen at altitude. ( this is very early) A cold Winter has also been forecast. Above all the Hornets seemed to melt away. Yesterday morning I went racquet in hand 5 times to the hive in the garden and in total only saw 2 hornets. For several days now I have seen less and less hornets.
The weather forecast for Bristol tomorrow is for 15 deg C day time and 5 deg C at night. I wonder if people in Philippa’s area are still seeing Hornets? I suspect not.
My feeling is that the threshold of temperature has arrived here and that the hornets will die off leaving the mated Queens to find a place to survive the winter.

Sarah More
Reply

Dear Michael,

Thank you for your excellent article. I want to write an article in my
association newsletter about the Apishield floor and its faults. Do beekeepers in
France find they work? Will the hornets enter through the cones (I have heard from
our SBI they don’t like having things touch their wings)? My friend can’t pull out
his tray now as the poor quality wood has swollen and the hive is heavy. One time
the floor came out with the tray along with a load of angry bees and then he
couldn’t get it back fully. Do you kill the hornets in the trap by drowning them?

I wouldn’t like to open it with a few angry hornets in it!

Thanks and best wishes.

Michael Judd
Reply

Sarah,

Thank you very much, but it is really Rusty who needs the thanks.

I am afraid I have not used or know anyone who has used Apishield. However, I will try to answer your questions as far as possible.

As you know the Asian hornet hovers outside the hive entrance waiting for arriving or departing bees. It is not as far as I can see their preferred method to go into a hive. Although they do sometimes enter a hive, this is only when the colony is not defending its entrance and is probably very weak. The wires on the muzzle (see above) allows them to go through but the wings certainly touch. They seem most reluctant to do that. If they do enter my muzzles they get attacked. So I cannot see the logic behind the shield.

As you see in two of my photos above my bees this year formed a “beard” from the entrance to the outer wires of the muzzle. The “beard” is like a summer beard that drops from the entrance. They use this to watch and as a defensive group should a hornet come too close. They also use it as a landing and take off strip.

I am not sure how they die in my bottle type traps. My thought is that they exhaust themselves trying to get out and fall into the liquid and die.
Finally, yes, opening an Apishield would be somewhat frightening. I often have to wait until trapped hornets are dead before I open the bottle trap to renew the bait liquid.

Good luck
Michael

Ian Mickish
Reply

Hi Phillipa,

I used to live in Malmesbury, married a French girl and moved to France. I’m in my first year of beekeeping I had 3 hives but just lost one, I’m not sure why, the article I just read is really good and have got to use some of these ideas.

I live in a small hamlet called Bemecourt in Normandy, last summer I got my colonies and I’ve had terrible trouble with these hornets, don’t underestimate them they are intelligent creatures I watched one hovering around one of my hives, it would dart forward to try and make the bee’s take off, it had no success so it just turned around and waited for a bee to fly back to the hive. Badminton rackets come in very handy 😊. Another good trap is made from a water bottle, cut the top off about 1/4 of the way down, place the piece you just cut inside the rest of the bottle, pierce the top each side and tie a loop to hang it.

We mix cheap red wine with as much sugar to make it fairly thick like treacle they get in but can’t get out.

All the best to all you beekeepers

Kind regard,
Ian

sherry
Reply

I live in Pennsylvania and this past summer I found a HUGE wasp (about 3-4 inches in size!) eating an apple that had been munched on by a chipmunk and then abandoned. First, I freaked out! But once I regained my composure, I went into the house and grabbed my spray can of PAM. PAM is a cooking spray and I was able to get close enough to spray the wasp’s wings. He dropped immediately to the ground where I stomped the %$# out of him! I think this worked as well as a badminton racquet as I have had practice with aggressive wood borer bees. Maybe this spray would offer these bee-loving beeks another option. Good Luck!

Rusty
Reply

Sherry,

I wish you had a picture! I’ve never seen a wasp that big.

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty,

They say that everything is bigger in the USA……..For Sherry’s sake I hope they don’t find elephants there as well.

One also wonders what effect PAM (what ever that has in it) might have on a passing honey bee 🐝

Lol

Michael

Rusty
Reply

Michael,

I think Pam has vegetable oil and soy lecithin. It probably sticks to the bees wings and weighs them down. Also, it may clog the spriacles (breathing holes).

Michael Judd
Reply

Rusty,

Here are photos of the latest muzzles that my carpenter beekeeper friend has developed. I have photographed these and as the Asian Hornets are starting to appear I will try them out on some hives here.

BTW as an Asian Hornet update. People here along with myself have not seen many springtime hornets. It has been very dry (no rain for 3 months). The count in traps have been down 90%. They have started nosing around my hives here but only in single numbers. Three quarters of the time I go near the hives I do not see any hornets. Am getting about 2 a day in the numerous traps and my badminton racquet gets about 3 or 4 a day. As to the photos, The first one is as last year’s model with bigger entrance holes. Version 2 is open at the top and bottom and has a slit entrance in the middle. Version 3 is only open at the top. I have more photos if you find these three not clear.

All the best
Michael

Rusty
Reply

Michael,

You can’t upload photos directly to this site. I will email you with directions.

Glenn D Barker
Reply

I keep bees in an orchard area and have lost a few hives to yellowjackets in the past. A few years ago I read some research done by a Professor Ifantidis in Greece, and built a version of his trap similar to the European (ApiShield) and New Zealand (Hive Defender) designs. I’ve been using my ‘Hive Help’ for two years with great success on all my hives. The trap doubles as a screened bottom board (which provided decent ventilation in our damp climate) and not only distracts and hold wasps, but wax moths and robber bees. With the help of a sticky pad, it also helps with varroa management. Unlike the European and NZ versions, I have designed mine to allow the continued use of a standard entrance reducer. You can see a demonstration of the trap on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLQtzLUM9rk&t=103s

Sarah
Reply

Hi,

I’m British but moved to Normandy 5 years ago. Since last year I have 1 hive. I fed my bees a syrup solution the middle of last week, and generally everything seemed fine. But yesterday whilst collecting apples (I have my hive about 100 m away in our orchard, I noticed a number of Asiatic hornets attacking bees and getting into the hive. I have returned this morning and had closer look at the hive, any bees in the hive seem thoroughly weak and aren’t attacking the hornets at all. I feel it is possibly already too late to save my hive. I’m going to have a good look in the surrounding trees to see if I can at least locate the nest and try the plastic bottle trap.

Sarah

Rusty
Reply

Sarah,

I feel bad for you. From what I’ve heard, those things are vicious.

Philippa Burgess
Reply

Sarah,

Can you move the hive to an alternative location a few miles away to give the hive a chance to recover and hopefully away from the hornets?

Philippa

Dieter
Reply

Observation:

I placed plastic trays (ca. 50 cm x 80 cm) close to my hives, filled with water as a watering hole this last dry summer for my bees. I was surprised to constantly find the bottom covered with dead yellow jacket wasps. By comparison there was the odd honey bee among them, less than a dozen. And maybe they were on their way to honey heaven anyway. The ratio might have been 1 : 20 or 1 : 30 bees : wasps. Don’t know if this would work for the hornets as well. But the effort is next to nothing and maybe worth a try. And if you only caught yellow jackets, who would complain.

Sarah
Reply

Hi.

Thanks everyone for your comments, really helpful. I had a green plastic guard on the front of my hive which is meant to stop the AH getting in, but I stood and watched them for some time on Wednesday and noticed that whilst they can’t get into the hive whilst crawling normally, if they invert themselves and crawl through the gap upside down, they can squeeze through!

Michael Judd
Reply

Sarah,

I am so sorry to reply so late. I have been a bit ill. I am so sorry for you as I know what it is like. Two things –

One: The muzzles work but the one in “French Garden Blog” blog is far too big. In my opinion it gives the bees too much space to defend. The photos of my muzzles I think on this blog somewhere are much smaller and allow the bees to beard and defend. In fact this year I have made the muzzles even smaller and the hornets really do not go near them.

Two: Prawn bodies in a trap do work remarkably well. I also use a skirt attached under the hive entrance to deny the hornets a space to linger awaiting for a returning bee.

Lastly as I mentioned in July (above) I have seen much less hornet activity this year. I do not know the reason for this, I am just thankful. But one thing I have noticed is that the hornets tend to go for weak colonies. A strong colony with large numbers gives the chance for the bees to have a suitable number of defenders to deter the hornets.

Slightly more worrying and a question for Rusty would be that I noticed European hornets hovering rather than flying by. Although they hover facing the hive where the Asian tends to change the direction they face continually.

Michael

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