• Outdoors Outdoors

Genetic testing confirms pervasiveness of invasive bee-killing hornets: 'Very likely the ... insect will be here for good'

"It is highly concerning that their 'season' appears to be getting longer."

"It is highly concerning that their 'season' appears to be getting longer."

Photo Credit: iStock

The U.K. has been monitoring the threat of a new invasive species that specifically targets bee populations. 

What's happening?

An increasing number of Asian hornets have been reported across the United Kingdom, and DNA testing confirms their presence. Evidence that some hornets managed to survive during the winter means "it is very likely the bee-killing insect will be here for good," per a report by the Guardian.

Why is this threat to bees so concerning?

Bees are important to the global ecosystem and include around 20,000 different species worldwide. And in case you think this is just a case of bee-on-bee violence, the bee and wasp took different evolutionary paths 100 million years ago. The humble bee is vegetarian, feeding pollen to their young, while wasps and hornets are carnivores.

This is the crux of the problem, as the report explains, since the Asian hornets stalk honeybees at their hives, capture them for food, and feed scraps to their young. A single hornet can hunt down 50 honeybees in a day.

The government-backed National Bee Unit (NBU) told the Guardian that at least three queen hornets were captured and appear to be offspring of an old nearby nest, implying that they've started breeding. 

However, to be classed as a naturalized species, several generations need to be confirmed, and so far, only one generation has been. There were 57 sightings in 2023, more than double the previous seven years combined, and this year there are already 15 more sightings.

In an earlier article in the Guardian, David Smith from the charity Buglife said: "It is highly concerning that their 'season' appears to be getting longer and this is a real risk to wild pollinators that are already facing significant declines and are now faced with a ferocious predator as they are emerging from winter."

Protecting bees from this invasive species is of utmost importance since bees have a positive impact on both humans and the environment. Their honey is a source of nutrition (for both them and us) and has been valuable as a medicinal source.

Bee pollination can increase crop yields and enhance the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables, according to a paper in the National Library of Medicine. Even oilseed crops used to make biofuels, a cleaner and more affordable alternative to dirty fuels, see better yields.

What can be done to protect bee populations?

One of the easiest ways to do your part in helping bees to flourish is to cultivate a garden in your yard. Try to use native plants, and don't be afraid to let it grow a little wild. Not only that, but bees are beneficial to common garden staples, such as squash and tomatoes. 

You could also become a beekeeper. You can foster bee populations and help local plants and trees to flourish, even in urban areas. 
There's also the benefit of honey production, but "usually, don't expect honey your first year," as beekeeping entrepreneur Nicole Rivera Hartery of New Jersey shared to temper expectations.

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider