Not everything in the garden is rosy

Hurrah, at last, a bit of seasonal warmth. It has been so wet and so fresh for weeks now that I was beginning to wonder if the bees could hang on much longer. Today, finally, it’s sunny and warm and the bees are out in force.

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roses are red

The roses are all doing well, but this ancient variety is definititely their favourite – the bees are numerous and the activity is somewhat phrenetic.

Over in the herb garden, the chive flowers are attracting much attention – from butterflies, bumblebees and honey bees alike.

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chive flowers are blue

However, hiding in amongst the charming chive flowers, dark forces are at work – and this poor honey bee has become a victim.

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Crab Spider (Xysticus) enjoying a spot of honey bee for lunch

Another unwelcome visitor in the garden is the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) – also a predator of bees. The following image is actually a European Hornet (Vespo crabro) which has been adeptly neutralised by a swift knock from Andy’s mobile phone, its thorax becoming squished in the process. This hornet is not reviled as much as its Asian counterpart, but is nonetheless not something I am fond of finding near the house.

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European Hornet (Vespa crabro)

I put out some bottle traps for the Asian Hornet monsters a few weeks ago, especially near the hives. These are simple devices constructed from 2 empty water bottles and filled to a depth of about 10 centimetres with a mixture made up of brown beer, white wine and a syrupy cordial such as grenadine. These traps do attract other flying creatures (crucially not bees or butterflies), and the liquid bait will contain flies and moths, but essentially they are targeted at attracting hornets. Here is the haul from one bottle after just a few days…

an assortment of hornets from a bottle trap

an assortment of hornets from a bottle trap

The metal grill is back on th hive – this narrows the entrance to the hive, so that, in theory, only the honey bees can gain access. And I’ll be keeping an eye out for a nest – these tend to be spherical, often high up in trees, but also in other sheltered spots. Here is an example of what I’m on the lookout for …

Asian Hornet nest

To end on a happy note, we go back to the chive flowers and a contented bumblebee.

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Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) investigating chive flower

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10 thoughts on “Not everything in the garden is rosy

  1. It did not look like an Asian hornet that you squashed. Check out some pictures and the dark colour of the thorax with rings. The yellow legs are a good sign separating it from the european hornet. Lovely photographs, your early bumble bees are much fluffier than mine.

    • Thanks alot for the correction – post has been duly updated. I did find some frelon asiatique in the bottle traps last year, along with european hornets (and should have paid more attention to the differences). More reading required for me.

      • I had a lot of frelon asiatique in the garden last year then in the autumn after leaf fall we saw a huge nest in the next door garden, very high in a tree. It could have been removed at this point to reduce the number of queens but the Mairie messed it up and nothing was done (after a firm promise that it would be removed). I’m still a bit bitter about it, especially as our neighbour was very cooperative.

      • Im surprised the Mairie were so unreactive. I spotted a nest a few weeks ago on my drive home, and by the time I’d returned with my camera it had already been removed – would have loved to have witnessed the process.
        Have just come in from the garden where I spotted some Bee Orchids – am very excited – they’re fabulous – thought you’d like to know!

      • I’m glad yours were removed rapidly, in their defence, the nest was extremely high. We have got Bee Orchids in the garden too – or rather did have last year, I suppose they will be out now as I marked their spot so as not to disturb them. It’s lovely to find them in the garden.

  2. Arrrgh. The British Beekeepers Association magazine this month had a feature on Vespa velutina, which they seem to think will make its way to England some way or other in the next few years. They mentioned that the traps are rarely successful as only a small percentage of the victims are the hornets.

    • If a trap only ensnares one single hornet, then I would consider it successful, and better than not having a trap at all. In my eyes, capturing other types of hornet is a bonus. I have just updated the post with an image of the results from one bottle. I wonder though if a more selective and effective answer is on its way – before they spread much further.

      • “If a trap only ensnares one single hornet, then I would consider it successful, and better than not having a trap at all.”

        Even at the cost of large amounts of insects other than hornets? I wouldn’t want to kill off innocent insect species, particularly struggling or rare ones. Thanks for the photos.

      • Asian Hornets have been in France now for 9 years, and trap design and utilisation is constantly evolving with the aim of making them as selective and efficient as possible. The trick is to keep abreast of any new and worthwhile developments.
        The key factors are to put them in the right place, at the right time of year, with the right bait and for them to be of the right dimensions. For example, my traps are pierced with holes about 5.5 mm in diameter, which allows most small insects to escape (although some do end up in the soup). In Spring, I add white wine to the bait, which keeps away bees and butterflies. I will soon be moving on to a Summer recipe, based on sardines!
        A research project is underway at the Bordeaux Institute of Agronomy, to better understand the feeding habits of the asian hornets, and with the hope of isolating a pheromone which can be used to entrap them exclusively.
        I like to have the traps in the garden, not simply to eliminate any hornets, but also to alert me to their presence, with the attendant possibility of a nest not too far away. I’m not just thinking of the bees here – but also our human visitors.
        Please be assured that it is not the intention to harm any innocent bugs (only a very few are sacrificed). Having encouraged them into the garden in the first place, with suitable vegetation and habitats, it would be rather counterproductive.
        I feel a new blog post coming on.

  3. It’s good to know that you take such trouble to try and only capture hornets. Perhaps other beekeepers do not take such care over their traps and that is why the BBKA article was quite negative about their effect on insect life.

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