An extract from the Blog article by Peter Davies

Dealing with an incursion

When a report comes in with a photograph that can be clearly identified as an Asian hornet, the NBU local contingency operation swings into action.

Firstly, the local inspector will head to the location to try and collect a sample hornet to send to FERA science at Sand Hutton for a formal identification and possible genetic analysis.

Secondly, a small team of 4- 6 inspectors and an incident commander assemble at the location to start the ground work to enable monitoring and tracking operations to commence.  This will involve door to door visits with information sheets to gain the public’s help and support as we may need access to gardens, private property and grounds as well as public spaces. The team need to familiarise themselves with the local area, terrain and locations of amenities services such as hospitals and access routes.

A Forward Operating Base (FOB) location is identified by APHA’s Resilience & Technical Advisors. This may be within a local fire station, Environment agency, Forestry Commission buildings, or village hall. The FOB allows the incident response to be managed safely and appropriately in a controlled environment and is a base to liaise with local authorities, land owners, general public, local beekeepers and AHT’s. It also allows a local base for staff briefings, risk assessments, handovers and equipment to be issued from a regional stores.

To bolster NBU experience in Asian hornets track and trace techniques last summer, six inspectors spent a week training in Jersey where Asian hornets are present. This training was invaluable as mainland training is limited to real incursions of which thankfully there have not been many!

Image of a seeding station with two plates in a field
Sugar and protein bait stations used to track and trace Asian hornet to their nest.

As part of the track and trace process NBU Inspectors are deployed in teams of two to monitor and track the hornets to their nest. They establish a series of mobile feed stations which can be moved forward down the line of sight toward the nest. Several feed stations allow triangulation of the nest location. The nests may be sited in tree tops at over 30m or in bushes or shrubs and anywhere in between.

Image split in two. The one on the left hand side depicts a woodland floor and the image on the right depicts a treetop.
2019 nests: Spot the nest on the ground and a nest in a tree.

Whilst working in close proximity to a nest site the area is cordoned off and Hornet sting-proof suits and gloves are worn to protect us from defensive behavior. Once the nest is located, APHA’s National Wildlife Management Centre attend to carry out the ‘destruction’. The next day the nest is removed and sent to FERA Science for analysis.