Ra­dio tags used to trace hor­nets’ nest

Western Daily Press - - News - ROD MINCHIN news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

ELEC­TRONIC ra­dio tags have been used for the first time on the UK main­land to help find and de­stroy a nest of Asian hor­nets.

Univer­sity of Ex­eter sci­en­tists joined the hunt af­ter Asian hor­nets, which prey on hon­ey­bees and other pol­li­na­tors, were spot­ted feed­ing on fallen apples south of Brock­en­hurst in Hamp­shire last month.

Dr Pe­ter Kennedy, from the Univer­sity of Ex­eter, said pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that tags could be at­tached to Asian hor­nets in or­der to fol­low them to their nests.

“The Na­tional Bee Unit and the An­i­mal and Plant Health Agency were al­ready at the site and had nar­rowed down the search area to a small wood of ma­ture trees, ap­prox­i­mately 500 me­tres from the orig­i­nal sight­ing,” Dr Kennedy said.

“I was asked to join the team to help pin­point the nest lo­ca­tion with ra­dio teleme­try.

“The first hor­net we caught was large – well ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing one of our ra­dio tags – and flew straight into the wood­land and dis­ap­peared from view.

“We were able to use our ra­dio teleme­try to fol­low the hor­net and re­duced the likely nest lo­ca­tion to one of three trees, within a cou­ple of hours.

“One of the team of in­spec­tors and lo­cal vol­un­teers then quickly spot­ted the nest in one of these trees.

“The nest was only vis­i­ble from one or two nar­row an­gles due to the height of the nest and the leaf canopy ob­scur­ing the view.”

Asian hor­nets have been dis­cov­ered at sev­eral lo­ca­tions in Eng­land re­cently, in­clud­ing Corn­wall and York­shire.

They are smaller than na­tive Eu­ro­pean hor­nets, have a largely dark or black body and yel­low-tipped legs, a dis­tinc­tive or­ange-yel­low stripe near the end of their ab­domen, and of­ten a thin or­ange-yel­low line just be­hind the waist.

Their face is or­ange, and the back of the head is black, un­like the Eu­ro­pean hor­net in which both the face, back of the head and a lot of the ab­domen are yel­low.

To hu­mans they are con­sid­ered no more dan­ger­ous than the com­mon wasp but are a real dan­ger to hon­ey­bee hives.

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