‘Voracious predators’ threaten honey production and pose risk to biodiversity, says Salvatore De Meo
Italian MEPs are calling on the European Commission to crack down on Asian hornets, which are spreading across some EU countries and killing off bees.
The yellow-legged hornets, native to south-east Asia, were first identified on the continent two decades ago, arriving in France before spreading to Spain, Belgium, Holland, Portugal and Italy, where after first appearing in 2012 they are causing havoc in the country’s northern regions.
There was also a sharp rise in sightings of the invasive species in the UK last year. Bees are vital for the production of honey and maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Eleven MEPs from the rightwing Forza Italia have asked the commission to devise “specific measures to fight against the diffusion of the insect through funding control systems with EU resources”.
The Asian hornet was a “voracious predator” with a capacity to kill up to 30 bees a day, the MEP Salvatore De Meo told Il Messaggero.
“Since 2004, this has caused a significant decline in the bee population in some EU countries,” he said. “This phenomenon jeopardises traditional pollinators, especially the honeybees on which the production of high-quality Italian honey depends, and risks damaging our biodiversity.”
The Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, is believed to have entered Europe through the port of Bordeaux in 2004 in a container containing pottery imported from China. The invaders cost the French economy an estimated €30.8m a year, while the insects have caused a 35% drop in honey production in Portugal in recent years.
In Italy, the insects were first identified in Liguria before spreading to Piedmont, Tuscany and, more recently, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto. It is unclear how much the Asian hornet has so far affected honey production at a national level, but losses in Liguria have been estimated at 50%, while beekeepers in Tuscany and Veneto are raising the alarm.
“We are worried,” said Michele Meridio, the president of the beekeepers’ association in Veneto.
Meridio said Asian hornets were different from the oriental hornet, or Vespa orientalis, which is blighting areas of Italy’s south.
“An oriental hornet might attack a single beehive, whereas an Asian hornet attacks several beehives at the same time,” he said. “They kill bees at such an incredible speed – dismembering them and bringing the remains back to their own nests to feed their young – that the bees no longer leave their hives.”
Source: The Guardian