The Asian Hornet - A BABKA Beekeepers Experience
Submitted by: Stephen von Bertele - 23/09/2016
I took up bee keeping after developing an interest in bees through my aunt who kept bees at her house in the Basque Country in northern Spain and where we would enjoy the beautiful mountain honey that was always a prominent feature of breakfast when we stayed there. Wishing to also enjoy honey, I took up beekeeping about six years ago and at last am enjoying the fruits of the labours of the bees and sometimes myself.
After my aunt gave up beekeeping, I inherited her equipment and last year journeyed to the Basque Country to collect it.
There were other beekeepers in the village but last year we were informed that the last of them had given up after his hives were decimated by the Asian hornet.
This year, in August, we visited the region again and while in the town of Guernica, where the bombing of the civilian market took place during the Spanish civil war, I had a first hand experience of the devastating and lethal power of the Asian hornet. I had parked the car and was about to lock it when what I thought was a bumble bee bounced off my foot. I looked down and saw two large insects engaged in combat. Within the space of a few seconds one of them had bitten off the head of the other and had also bitten off one wing. I immediately had a good idea of what was happening and I intervened and gently squashed them and killed, the up to then, victor of the fight. Inspection revealed it to be an Asian hornet. It was quite incredible that in the few seconds, and I think it was no more than five, that they were fighting that the hornet had bitten the head clean off the other insect. The second insect, which was identified by my aunt as a horsefly was larger that the hornet. I believe what I was observing was the killing of food for the hornet which was then going to strip off the superfluous and non nutritious parts of the body before flying back to its home nest with food for the colony in the nest.
My son in law was also able to view the nest of the Asian hornet when he visited a local bird reserve. The staff were aware of the nest and were going to inform the local fire brigade who would destroy it. However I was subsequently informed by my aunt that because of the large numbers of nests that have been identified in Spain this was not always done as the fire service did not have the resource to deal with all reporting of nests.