Catching the Asian Hornet

Well that was fascinating.
Having been advised of Asian Hornets in Dorset we were asked to help find a nest as a member of the Asian Hornet Action Team for the area.

Sounds simple – we were looking for something the size of a football hanging in a tree.

I guessed we would all form into a line like a police search team and walk along in step but instead of looking down we would be looking up. Easy!

The area we were allocated was woodland with grassy areas nearby. My first task of the day was to stand by a large ivy plant watching for the Asian Hornet. I had already been shown one nearby so I knew what I was looking for. I must say once you have seen one in flight it is not something you are likely to forget – or confuse with anything else.

Anyway the ivy was in the sun and loads of insects came and went. A very pleasant way of spending an October morning even if a little painful on the neck looking up all the time. Eventually we spotted one and with a deft flick of the wrist it was trapped in a butterfly net. Needless to say it was not I who showed such dexterity with a butterfly net.
The beast was unmarked and so it was marked with a unique coloured dot. From there it was taken to a feeding station set up near to where we suspected the nest was situated. There it was introduced to the food – Trappit – in the hope that it would remember it was food and where it was.
Marking AH2
It was then released! Now if I had done that I would be in serious trouble releasing a non-native species into the wild but this operation was being run by those who are allowed to release them.
AH in trap4
Carefully we all tried to watch where it went. As it rose up it was easy to spot but once the trees were its background we lost it. However we did now have a general idea of the direction.

This was repeated several times using Asian Hornets with different colour spots and we now had a good idea of the direction of the nest. But how far was it away?

The next stage was to time the flight from the moment it left the feeding station to when it returned. We assumed it flew straight to the nest, disgorged the food and then flew straight back to the feeding station. Knowing the speed of flight we were able now to estimate the distance to the nest and the direction. Perhaps now we would form in a line and look into the canopy.

No it was not to be. We gathered in the area where we suspected the nest was situated and looked up. In winter it would be easy to find a nest with no leaves around but at this time of year not so easy. It took us about half an hour and at least eight of us looking up the tree till one of us spotted the nest. Once found we trained binoculars on it and could see the Asian Hornets going in and out.

And that was job done as far as I was concerned. It now remained for the specialist teams to get in there and remove the nest – preferably after dark when they have all returned. Once that was done we will have to monitor the area. It will not be declared clear until we have had five consecutive days with no sitings either of flying Asian Hornets or Asian Hornets in traps.

Asian Hornet is here.

The Asian Hornet is here in Dorset – in Christchurch.

This time we are not talking of a single Asian Hornet hiding in a cauliflower.
Several Asian Hornets have been seen and a positive identification has been made that it is an Asian Hornet.
The local Asian Hornet coordinators have all been notified and are on standby to provide any assistance that may be required.

However your help is needed now more than ever:

  • If you have a trap make certain it is baited.
  • If you don’t have a trap you can make one
  • Check your trap daily.
  • If you find an Asian Hornet in the trap let the NBU or the Asian Hornet Coordinators know as soon as possible. Do not wait till you have caught several.
  • Make certain the trap is registered on Bee-base as that provides a lot of help to the NBU team.
  • Check your hives for “hawking” by the Asian Hornet. Our bees are the not the only source of food for the Asian Hornet but they do provide regular food and rich pickings from a single source.
  • The food of choice seems to be ivy as it has nectar and regular insect visitors so that is the one to watch.
  • Watch the web sites and keep in touch with developments.
  • If you are not registered on Beebase, do so.

If you are not certain what to look for then remember:

  • have a dark brown or black velvety body
  • have a yellow or orange band on fourth segment of abdomen
  • have yellow tipped legs
  • are smaller than the native European hornet
  • are not active at night

More information is available here.
We are hoping that this is an isolated incident but we must be prepared for something worse.Asian Hornet (BWARS)

Membership Renewals

Looking out of the rain drenched window it is difficult to believe that two weeks ago the apiary was bathed in warm sunshine – but there you are that is British weather for you.

So this is the time to prepare for next year and one of the first things to do is to renew your membership of the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers Association. Membership gives many advantages one of which is insurance.

The insurance covers two aspects of beekeeping – public liability and bee disease insurance. Personally I don’t know of anyone who has ever made a claim under either insurance but it is nice to know it is there if you should ever need it.

On a more positive note the membership allows you access to the resources of the BeeBase and in the event of a notifiable disease in your locality then you will be advised of its presence.

And most importantly it gives you greater access to local beekeepers who have a wealth of knowledge about keeping bees in Dorset.

So don’t delay – renew today.

Here is the link to the membership form and then if you pay income tax we can claim back the gift aid portion and the form for that is here.

The Show is Over

Fascinating weekend at the show. The weather was perfect – enough sun to persuade people to get out doors but not enough warmth to lie on the beach. We had a bigger marquee than in previous years and it allowed us to put on a more comprehensive display and speak to more people.

For pictures look here.

There were many questions asked and some required more explanation than we were able to give at the time. So here are a few of the questions asked and hopefully some suitable answers.

What do I have to do to keep bees?
Firstly you have to be keen. It is at times a frustrating hobby when you have done everything right and things still go wrong. But it is also a rewarding hobby when you have done everything right and your bees are healthy and there is honey in the cupboard. It is also a surprising hobby when you know you have missed out something or done something that was not in any of the books – and still you have healthy bees and a load of honey.

You need to go on a course before you do anything else. I have known a couple of cases – and only a couple- where being close to so many insects was just too much and they realised that bee keeping was not for them. But most people I have met on bee courses were interested to start with and once they had seen inside the hive they were fascinated and could not wait to get started.

How much time does it take?
Well the first thing to appreciate is that keeping bees is not just a matter of putting a hive at the bottom of your garden and popping down for a spoonful of honey at breakfast time. There is a lot more to it than that. Your hive will have to be visited approximately once a week from spring to autumn. It will have to be checked during the winter especially after gales or heavy snow. For the summer visits if you allow about 20 minutes per hive plus the time to change in to and out of a bee suit then that is about right. Some days it will take longer but other visits will take a less time. It depends how much of the hive you wish to check.

But having said that I probably spend more time with my dog than I do with my bees.

How much does it cost?
It is not a cheap hobby to start with.
You need a bee suit – £140
You need a smoker -£50
You need a hive – £300 as a flat pack but complete with all the hive needs.
You really should have another hive -£300
You need a hive tool – £10

One well known supplier does a complete beginner’s kit for £564 including one hive, gloves, a mouse guard and a manual.

Join a local association – about £40 but varies

Later you will need
A honey extractor – £300 to £500 though often can be borrowed from your local association.
A honey bucket – £40
Honey jars with labels – £50

Many of these items can be obtained second hand – though it is best to take advice from an experienced bee keeper.

There are many other things I use but they are items I have around the house. For example I use blowtorch to light my smoker, a small hammer to build my frames and so on but the above items are the specialist equipment.

Probably the most important part of the advice is to join a local association. Most local associations offer courses and in addition you will get advice, you will also get insurance which covers you for third party claims as well as certain issues with bee diseases.

Altogether it is not cheap but my total expenditure on equipment so far is probably less than the vets bills for my dog and you may sell some honey.

Do you get stung?
Yes – but not often. On the odd occasion when I have been stung it was either because I had done something with the bees and not put my suit on or when I have trapped a bee in the folds of my bee suit. Take simple precautions and you will not get stung – well not much and not often.

Can I keep them in my garden?
It depends where you are and how big is your garden.
As a first stage I would check with the neighbours as to whether they mind – and more importantly whether they are allergic to bees. The offer of some jars of honey may help.

Is there somewhere you can site your hives away from the the neighbours or public paths?

One solution is to place your hives in a shed with no roof. That way they come out of the hive and immediately fly up above the heads of people.

Perhaps you have a flat roof which could be used.

There is also the possibility of an out apiary where you keep them somewhere else such as the garden of someone with an orchard which needs pollinating.

Why do it?
It is a fascinating hobby and one I am so glad I took up. I have met many interesting people, helped the environment, learned  a lot about bees and I can have honey every day on my breakfast.

If you are still interested and want to contact the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers then contact Sally