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It is another New Year and this one has certainly blown in with a vengeance. So any plans or resolutions for the New Year? I certainly have plans:

  • Firstly I am going up the garden to check that the hive is still upright. I have recently moved and now have a garden big enough for a hive at the far end. In fact we may even put two hives up there but that is still under negotiation.
  • Whilst checking the hive I will also "heft" it. For those new to beekeeping "to heft" is to lift one side of the hive and assess its weight. If you do this regularly through the winter you can get some idea of the stores available for the bees.
  • But the weather is too wet and too windy for anything else out doors so this is a time to learn more about bees. For me part of the fascination of keeping bees is to understand more about them - particularly the organisation of the colony.
  • Later this week the weather is expected to dry up but become colder. That is when I will get out to the shed and see what repairs need to be done to equipment. What better way of keeping warm outside than scorching the inside of hives!
  • Prepare for the possible incursion of Asian Hornets. 2023 was a close call but hopefully we caught it in time Each nest which we destroyed can produce 350 gynes - that is females that can go on to produce a new nest next in the Spring. Did we find all the nests? Did we destroy all the gynes? Time will tell.
  • As part of my preparation for the Asian Hornet I will be attending the Asian Hornet Conference organised by Somerset Beekeepers this weekend. I will report back on that next week.
  • Also don't forget YouTube. I used to think it was just videos of teenagers falling of skate boards but in fact there is so much more. I am currently working through the Honey Show videos to be found at (221) National Honey Show - YouTube. They are well worth watching.
  • If this interests you then why not join the Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers and go on their Beginners' Course. Even if you never want to keep bees it is well worth attending to increase your knowledge of the natural world.

Yes, almost certainly it is still here in Dorset - the problem is we don't know where.

What we do know is that:

  • The NBU dealt with over 70 Asian Hornet nests in 2023
  • One nest of Asian Hornet can eat 12kg of flying insects.
  • The Asian Hornet is having a negative affecting on insect eating birds.
  • The best way to deal with Asian Hornets is to be plan ahead.

These are just some of the facts I have learned in the past month.

This is a good time to find out how we can prepare for the Asian Hornet invasion.

  • Asian Hornet Awareness Evening at the Colliton Club tonight the 29th November.

There will be a talk by Mark White on the latest developments with contributions from several members of Dorchester and Weymouth Beekeepers who were called to help with the two nests found on Portland.

  • 2nd South West Beekeepers Forum Asian Hornet Conference.
    • The list of speakers is on the web and is impressive including
      • Megan Seymour - from the NBU
      • Alistair Christie - from Jersey where they have loads of experience
      • Dr. Peter Kennedy - from Exeter University
      • Dr. Sandra Rojas Nossa- on the impact of Asian Hornet on biodiversity
      • Quentin Rome - on the impact of Asian Hornet in France
      • Bob Hogge - on the impact of Asian Hornet on beekeepers.
    • The conference is in Bridgwater TA6 6LQ
    • The cost to participate in the workshops is £10
    • The date of the event is the 6th January 2024
    • Full details are here.

Tickets are selling well and with just 300 places available I suggest booking early.

The Asian Hornet is here in Dorset as well as other parts of the UK.

Why does this matter? - The Asian Hornet can destroy a hive very quickly.

What do they do? - They hover, called hawking, outside the hive entrance. They will grab a honey bee near the hive. They rip of the wings and eat the body -a useful bag of protein.

How does this affect the hive? - Firstly the Asian Hornet is eating foraging bees. The colony soon becomes aware of this threat and they will not leave the hive. The result is the hive could starve.

But why target bees? - Well a honey bee is a social insect and a colony will have many thousand flying bees. Once an Asian Hornet finds a hive it has found a ready supply of food. Much easier to hawk outside a hive rather than go hunting for solitary bees or bumble bees.

What can we do to stop them? - Learn what an Asian Hornet looks like. Look for them if you are out walking. Some have been spotted by people dog walking and others whilst sitting in the garden.

How do I recognise one? - They are bigger than a wasp but smaller than a European Hornet. They have yellow legs, an orange face and a single yellow band across their abdomen.

And if I see one? - If you have a Smart phone then download the "Asian Hornet Watch App" for iPhone or Android from your usual app store. That has pictures of the Asian Hornet and other insects with which it can be confused.

What else can I do with the app?- If you can get a photo of it then the app can send that off along with your location and time you took the photo. If it confirmed as an Asian Hornet things will happen.

But I don't have a smart phone. Then there is an online reporting tool here.

What things will happen?- DEFRA will be alerted and they will send a team to track down the nest and destroy it. They then analyse the nest to see if it is an isolated nest or one of several in the area.

Is the Asian Hornet dangerous to humans? - Like many insects their aim is to survive and they only get aggressive if you are threatening them or their nest. They are bigger than bees or wasps so they carry more sting venom. If they are threatened they may group together and attack on you - beware.

What about the nests? - The nest looks like a wasp nest. If you do spot one then make a note of where it is and move away. Report it using the app and let professionals deal with it.

Any other tips? - I have been called out several times to suspected sightings. They often fly too fast to see clearly. Take a video of them flying then go through it frame at a time. That helps.

Can't we just ignore them? No. They will start by killing many of our honey bees and without local honey bees where will you be able to get pure local honey.

But I don't eat honey. - And Asian Hornets don't just eat bees. When they have eaten the bees they will start on other pollinating insects like butterflies - and without pollinating insects our fruit bowl will be a sad place.

Where can I find out more?- Beebase is useful as is the BBKA

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