SBKA member Lynne Ingram reports from the front line fighting Asian hornets in Jersey
Gathered in a car park with fantastic views of France, Alderney and Sark, teams of hornet hunters received instructions on today’s tasks. We were about to start gathering data on hornet flight speed, relationship between feeding time and time spent at the nest. Three teams had bait stations at different distances from a known nest, and one team was filming and recording the nest itself. We timed hornets that we had marked the day before, as they flew between the bait station and the nest. Hornets are docile while feeding on a bait station so that it is fairly easy to catch them and mark them, with no need for veils or gloves. However the bait stations have been inundated with hundreds of wasps that flock in a feeding frenzy (and crawl up your trouser legs!), so we have been wearing veils to work which makes it harder to spot the hornets on the wing.
After we finished that task and after a debrief, some of us had the opportunity to get close up and personal to a hornet nest some 50 feet up in a tree. It was fantastic to be able to see them in their nest so close up, and we weren’t too bombarded by them! The worst thing was getting into the hornet suits, which are 8mm thick so that the hornet sting cannot penetrate them. You do need someone to help you get into it. The Chief Minister of Jersey also came along to see the nest, and to get dressed up in a hornet suit
We headed off to our site in the Trinity area and put out some new bait stations after timing flights and getting flight directions. Now we are about two minutes away from the nest (about 200 metres), so tomorrow we will place a bait station about 400 metres away so that we can get a back bearing. We also put a new bait station on a line between this first site and the apiary that has hawking hornets. We now seem to spend hours on Google Earth plotting sightings, flight lines and bait
station positions, but it is not always possible to place the bait station in the ideal place. Today we had to work around a horse that was allergic to wasp stings, and a gardener trimming a huge hedge. We leave laminated sheets at the bait stations that explain what it is, and which also gives contact numbers
Great news to end the day – another nest was found, this one at the foot of a bramble bush. So our initial thoughts that Asian hornets only nest 50 feet up in a tree is proving to be incorrect. We have found them in trees, hedges, houses, roofs, and now at ground level.