Bee-Killing Asian Hornet to Be Declared Invasive Pest in France

The Asian hornet, a bee-killing predator first seen in France in 2004, will be declared an invasive and harmful exotic, allowing the government to set up country-wide pest control programs.

The species, whose scientific name is Vespa velutina, is a major cause of damage to honey bees, contributing to the colony disappearance observed in past years, the Agriculture and Environment Ministries wrote in a joint statement today.

The hornet may have come to Europe in pottery from China imported by a plant breeder in France’s southwest, according to the Paris-based National Museum of Natural History’s website. The insect has spread at a pace of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) a year since 2004, and in 2011 had invaded about half the country as well as expanded to Spain and Portugal and possibly Belgium, museum data shows.

“Faced with the importance and the urgency of the situation, the two ministers have put in place an accelerated procedure to assure a classification as an invasive exotic species and a harmful species by the end of the year,” the ministries wrote in a statement.

Vespa velutina is the only hornet that has been accidentally introduced in Europe, according to a fact sheet published by the museum. The Asian hornet is not considered aggressive to humans, and nests can be observed from a distance of 4 to 5 meters (13 to 16 feet) without any risk, according to the data.

An Asian hornet will hover in front of a bee hive and capture gatherer bees, killing them with its jaws, the museum said. The predator will then cut off the bee’s head, legs, wings and abdomen, taking the corpse to its nest to feed hornet larvae, according to the museum.

The government decision will open for public consultation tomorrow for a 15-day period, the ministries wrote. Classifying the Asian hornet as an invasive exotic species and a health risk allows for setting up compulsory control programs at a national and local level, they said.

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