Asian hornets resist all attempts to limit their progress through Portugal
Five years of pondering and two years of preventive action, to control the spread of Asian hornets across Portugal, have failed.
The Minister of Agriculture, Capoulas Santos, does little more than marvel as the insect’s “impressive” reproduction capacity and inexorable progress.
The minister said that the Government will “re-establish” its Asian hornet combat programme based on a new commission’s suggestions for a strategy to deal with the invasive insect that already has been found in 12 of Portugal’s districts.
Capoulas Santos said, “indeed, there has been an expansion, despite all the effort being made to identify and destroy Asian hornet nests. Its reproduction capacity, due to the absence of predators, has indeed been impressive.”
The Asian hornet, or yellow-legged hornet, (Vespa velutina), is a species that used only to live in the tropical and subtropical regions of northern India, Indochina and the Indonesian archipelago. Since 2011, sightings in northern Portugal have been increasingly frequent. They are believed to have been inadvertently imported to France in 2004 in a shipment of pottery from China, and at least six people have died there from anaphylactic shock after being stung by the hornet which can devour up to fifty honey bees a day.
“This hornet is a threat to our biodiversity, particularly to honeybees, which play an important role in pollination. We will have to take the effort, together with Civil Protection and local authorities, to identify and destroy this pest that unfortunately remains active,” said the minister.
Capoulos Santos warned that dealing with nests is dangerous, as they are usually in tall trees, and anyone within a hundred metres is likely to get stung.
Santos commented also on the cost of dealing with the blighters and said that past activities have done little to stop the hornets’ progress, despite seven years’ work from Ministry of Agriculture staff, local authorities and Civil Protection staff to try to stop the advance.
Better late than never, last October, a notice was published in Diário da República to create a monitoring commission for the Asian hornet to, ‘evaluate a strategy to combat this invasive species.’
- The Asian hornet, or Vespa velutina, is an invasive species from Asia
- It was first spotted in Bordeaux, France, in 2005 and is now spreading rapidly through Europe
- It is a highly effective predator of insects, including honey bees, and can cause significant losses to bee colonies
- It is active between April and November
- Queens can be up to 3cm in length and workers around 2.5cm
- The Asian hornet is a day-flying species which, unlike the European hornet, ceases activity at dusk.
- It has an entirely dark-brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine, yellow band. It has a black head with an orange-yellow face
- It nests in tall trees in urban and rural areas, and nests can also be found in sheds, garages, under decking or in holes in the wall or ground
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