Extra funding granted to help in Asian hornet fight

THE Island’s battle to control a population explosion of Asian hornets has been boosted by a £25,000 top-up to the Environment Department’s budget for combating invasive species.

Since April, 36 nests, each with the capacity to house up to 6,000 hornets and 200 queens, have been destroyed and beekeepers heading an Asian hornet task force are currently searching for a further 11 colonies.

The next three weeks are crucial to prevent potentially thousands of new colonies emerging next year. Early autumn is when queens leave the nest to mate before going into hibernation over the winter to emerge the following spring and start building new nests.

Last month, Environment Minister John Young made a contingency bid for additional funding, which was agreed by the Council of Ministers on Thursday.

‘It is critical that we provide whatever support we can, given that we have this limited opportunity up to the end of September to try to identify nests,’ he said. ‘We have the support of the Chief Minister and States chief executive Charlie Parker, who regards our request as urgent and has authorised the finances to locate nests as it is very important in terms of trying to control the numbers of Asian hornets in the Island.

‘The Asian hornet is here to stay but we have got to do the best we can to try to control the situation before the queens leave their nests.’

The funding decision comes as Jersey hosts a workshop of experts from the British-Irish Council today TUES and tomorrow WEDS. Those dealing with the problem in Jersey will share their experiences with experts from the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man and other Channel Islands.

Since it arrived in the French port of Marseilles in 2004, the Asian hornet has spread across western Europe. The first confirmed sighting in Jersey was in August 2016.

Its capacity to reproduce on a prolific scale over a short time is evidenced by the situation in the Galicia region of Spain where the first two nests were detected in 2012, rising to more than 10,600 in 2016.

A single hornet can kill 50 honey bees a day and each queen has the potential to form a new colony. They also prey on other key pollinating insects which, like bees, are essential for the natural growing cycle of food crops.

Jersey’s beekeepers, who admitted to being overwhelmed by the scale of the current population, are being helped by experts from the UK, who are working alongside them to learn how to locate nests by using a radio telemetry tracking system developed by the University of Exeter and funded by the UK government.

Deputy Young has also instructed Environment officers to investigate other scientific studies into the Asian hornet to identify if it has any natural predators and what other methods of control are being used in Asia and Europe.

lSightings of Asian hornets and nests, ideally with a photograph, should be emailed to environment@gov.je or reported by calling 441600.

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