Beekeepers are on heightened alert after evidence that the predatory Oriental Hornet was nesting in the south of France.
Three researchers carrying out a study near Marseille last month were surprised to find three of the insects, which are larger and considered more dangerous to bees than the Asian Hornet.
The predatory Oriental Hornet poses an additional threat to the country’s bees, which are a primary food source – prompting concern in the beekeeping industry, which is already fighting to protect its hives from Asian Hornets.
The latter has spread across most of the country since it first arrived here in the early 21st century. While attacks on humans and deaths – mostly caused by anaphylactic shock – are rare, Asian hornets can destroy beehives, damaging honey stocks and destroying the native ecosystem.
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The Oriental Hornet, Vespa orientalis Hornet, has red and brown segments on its body and is bigger than an Asian Hornet.
The researchers who made the discovery last month believe that at least one nest has been formed, as they found a female, a male and a female worker. They suspect the insects arrived at the area surrounding the southern French city by boat.
They are now planning to find the nest in order to destroy it. Ideally, they said, any nests – which are usually hidden underground or in cavities in rocks or trees – should be destroyed before next Spring.
Once they have a foothold, it is feared that they could quickly spread across the country.
Another import – the tiger mosquito which also originates in Asia – is now widespread across most of France.