One in three honeybee colonies could lose their lives due to the fast proliferation of a predatory wasp species, an experienced beekeeper from southwestern Germany has warned.
Rainer Frisch is the deputy head of the Association of Apiarists in Kaiserslautern, Rhineland-Palatinate.
He told broadcaster SWR that beekeepers in the region were expecting a 30 per cent population reduction because of the Asian hornet’s (Vespa velutina)rapid habitat expansion.
The insect – which is indigenous to Southeast Asia – was first spotted in Europe 19 years ago. Asian hornets attack in swarms. They are capable of killing whole honeybee colonies.
Rainer emphasised: “If hornets prey on a colony, the beekeeper can do nothing else but sit and watch.”
He added: “Our bees need more time to get used to these new circumstances.”
Experts have warned that a siege by Asian hornets often leads to a reduction of honey stocks and colony figures before the aggressive species eventually invades the hive to kill all its inhabitants.
Some beekeepers have pointed out that the western honeybee (Apis mellifera) was able to protect itself against the domestic European hornet (Vespa crabro), but warned that the situation was totally different regarding the bigger Asian species.
Asian hornets have attacked humans on several occasions across Europe after their dwellings had been disturbed. Experts have been called out across the continent many times to remove their nests.
Asian hornet queens measure approximately 30 millimetres while their colonies’ workers reach a body length of around 20 millimetres.
The Kaiserslautern Association of Apiarists (Imkerverein Kaiserslautern) was founded in 1863 as a successor of a beekeeping union which can be traced back to the year 1769.
Today, the organisation – which is headed by Dr Patrick Klemens – has around 80 members.
The German Association of Beekeepers has more than 137,000 members. Overall, an estimated 170,000 residents of the Central European country engage in beekeeping.