Asian Hornets, the Eusocial - and Antisocial! Wasps.
Something else we can do well without from China!Click thumbnail to view full-size
Our Honeybees are in Mortal Danger
The Hornets are in Northern France already.
The legend says bee stings are bad, wasps are worse, but, oh, man, don’t evah git stung by a hornet!
Now we have one member of the species heading for our shores, the Asian Hornet, (Vespa veluntina), which we hope won’t be much of a problem for us, but it will for our poor honeybees, on which this nasty monster preys.
This B42 of the hornet world is four times larger than our honeybees: if it ever does sting you, be comforted by hearing that the sensation is the equivalent of having a white hot nail hammered into your quivering flesh! It can kill 20 ordinary bees in a few minutes without even breaking a sweat. It will hover outside the hive until the bees come out, grab one, sting it and, at the same time, bite off its wings and legs with its powerful mandibles, zooming off to its own nest with a nice little parcel of honeybee meat for the kids…rather like a Harrier jet attacking a lumbering biplane. Several of the hornets will keep up this attack until the hive bees are exhausted in trying to defend their colony. Then the hornets move it and devour anything inside they want.
These foreign marauders might be the knockout blow for our honeybees and the industry which is struggling from the effects of another Asian invader, the Varroa Mite, which has already reduced honeybee population by more than 10%.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, the killer is not here yet, but it has been reported in |Northern France where its first arrival was traced to a cargo ship from China in 2004, and no amount of volcanic ash in the atmosphere is likely to prevent it from making the short hop across the Channel and making a beeline, if you’ll excuse pun, to our hives. Beekeepers are anxiously scanning the skies and their hives as you read, waiting for the first appearance of Vespa velutina. How they will deal with it is the big question. It is marginally smaller than our native European hornets, but said to be much more aggressive and it will be ready to cross swords with the honeybees owners and drive a few white hot nails into them. One way, I suppose, will be to destroy the hornet’s own, ball shaped nests, as and when they appear. That will have to be a job left to the professional “swat teams” (ahem) of the exterminator army. Private individuals are warned that a nest of hornets doesn’t take lightly to any of the colony being molested and will attack with a fury which make a honeybee defensive operation seem like the girl scouts. Any reaction of the honey industry in Britain will depend on the size of the immigration.
Asian honeybees have developed their own interesting way of repelling the hornet attack. They have developed a strategy of surrounding the hornet in mid air with a large number of bees and, by flapping their wings, causing the hornet to overheat, fall and die. In the UK most of the year, they would be more likely to cause the hornet to become encapsulated in a coat of ice! We can only hope this would have the desired results. Bless those clever little Chinese bees for thinking of such a clever move. So far, such sophistry has not occurred to French bees, whom, as is the normal reaction towards invasion from the French themselves, are probably waiting for their allies to do something about it. Maybe the answer is to import these sensei of the bee world from the Orient and have them spread the buzz (ahem) around the European bees.
Picnickers in France have reported being attacked by the belligerent hornets. Actually, the toxicity of our European hornets, the Vespa cabro, is somewhat less than that of the honeybee, but the venom contains more acetylcholine - the “ouch” substance, which is why the stings are considered worse. The Asians - and most foreign hornets - are more toxic as well as being more painful. You would think, would you not, that the venom of these creatures might aid the Chinese with their apparent impotency woes and stop them needing ground rhino horn, gorilla’s hands and narwhal bollocks, or what ever else they murder in the idiotic hunt for virility? Taking a peep at the population statistics of his nation, China, would have any sane male citizen begging for castration, you might think: but, no, let’s get to two billion by 2020; pass me another cup of those ground tiger gonads. No wonder the hornets are leaving, there’s no room to fly there anymore!
One thing (for once) in our favor here in the UK is our long and chilly winters. Honeybees live through it, but wasps and hornets do not. We can postulate that the Asian hornets will be even less able to acclimatize than our local hornets and might enjoy a very short hunting season…time will tell.