The message from the Department of Agriculture to any invasion by Asian hornets is pretty clear: Buzz off.
Reports in British media claim the Asian hornet — said to possess a potentially fatal sting — had been seen in parts of continental Europe amid fears they could cross the English Channel.
The Department of the Environment’s National Bee Unit is to meet this month to put in place measures that might need to be used in the event the bees are spotted in Britain. The Department of Agriculture has also had to put a plan in place.
Given that climate and warm temperatures are the main driver as to where the bees locate themselves, you might have thought the Asian hornets are more likely to be spotted in Saint-Tropez than in Ballybofey, but the department is taking steps in the unlikely event the bees makes it to Ireland.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the Asian hornets were first spotted in Europe in 2004, in the south-west of France, and spread to Belgium, the Netherlands, northern Italy, and northern Spain.
It preys on honeybees, whose welfare is already a matter of concern.
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According to a departmental spokesperson: “Beekeepers are encouraged to be vigilant and check for the hornet in their apiaries.
“The Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine has a general contingency plan to deal with outbreaks of pests and diseases of bees and in relation to food safety issues associated with honey.
“Should the need arise, the contingency plan is activated and adopted to respond to the specific case. In relation to the Asian hornet, the first action would be to alert the beekeepers of the potential risk from this pest. The department has already done this in relation to a number of other bee pests.”
The spokesperson said that, in France, Asian hornet nest numbers were reduced by more than 90% in areas where traps were placed — meaning a similar measure could be employed here.
“If it is considered that the risk is such that it justifies putting out traps to monitor for the organism, then the department will organise and examine these traps,” said the spokesperson. “If the Asian hornet is then found, more extensive trapping would be used as a means of controlling the pest.
“However, the risk of immediate introduction to Ireland is currently not considered to be high, particularly as it has not been detected in the UK to date. Pesticides are not considered relevant in the control of this pest as any pesticide that is likely to be applied would also be toxic to bees.”
Anyone who believes they have seen an Asian hornet in Ireland should contact the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine on 01 6072000 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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