Guide to tracking Asian hornets

Safety first

When tracking for Asian hornets, your own safety and that of others is paramout.

  • A normal beesuit is not sufficient when dealing with this species
  • Never work alone, always have another person working with you and stay in contact
  • Take care with crossing roads whilst your attention is on tracking
  • Take care with climbing on or over anything while out tracking
  • Avoid fields with dangerous animals, for example bulls and cows with calves at foot
  • Avoid sunburn being out in the field all day
  • Remember, sunscreen and other perfumed products can act as an attractractant to insects (eg wasps and  hornets) so cover up rather than use these products
  • Avoid getting near Asian hornet nests - occasionally these may be near ground level
  • If a nest is low to the ground, let others know that are around you
  • Avoid causing undue panic on the part of the general public
  • Always prioritise nests if they are near schools or other areas where there are large groups of people
  • Don’t leave bait unattended - it could pose a threat to other insects and animals
  • The bait (Suterra, now named Trappit) looks like pink cordial - always mark with a clear label the contents, especially when decanted into another bottle/jar

Tracking etiquette

  • Do not trespass over land that is private - use local maps to indicate public rights of way
  • Park your car safely and don't cause an obstruction - leave a note if necessary with yoru contact details
  • Do not leave any bait where it could cause concern
  • Remove any bait when no longer required at a bait station.

While tracking, it's a great opportunity when you meet other people out on walks, for example, to encourage them to report sightings of Asian hornets. If they live by, it is worth asking if they would like to set up a simple monitoring station in their garden that they can report back to you.

What does tracking cover?

  • Setting up a bait station
  • Checking directions of flight
  • Recording those directions on a map
  • Timing flights
  • Setting up more bait stations using the above information in order to close in on the nest

Tracking Asian hornets

It is very important to know how to track Asian hornets back to their nests, so that the nests can be eradicated by properly equipped pest controllers. Do not attempt to remove an Asian hornet's nest yourself.

The experience in France and Spain has been that the number of nests multiplies exponentially, year on year. Every nest that is allowed to reach full maturity in the autumn will produce many new queens that will hibernate. Each of those will start a fresh nest in the spring. By tracking, as many nests as possible can be found and destroyed by specialist pest controllers.

The National Bee Unit (NBU) is currently the funding body that is responsible for tracking down and eradicating Asian hornet nests and have been very efficient in tackling the problem. However, when the number of nests becoming established in one season exceeds the NBU's capacity to track down them down and deal with, their funding for tracking will be withdrawn.

The law as it stands

When a sighting of an Asian hornet has been confirmed, the NBU responds rapidly and despatches bee inspectors to the area to begin the process of tracking. As yet, volunteer trackers are not permitted to help but they can particiapate in watching the direction in which the Asian hornets fly away from a bait station, indicating the direction of the nest.

It is illegal to restrain an Asian hornet even for a few seconds as it constitutes “capture and release of an invasive alien species” and requires a permit.