About the project
The Vespawatch project (Invasion monitoring of Asian hornet with beekeepers and the public) is a joint project of the Institute for Nature and Forest Research (INBO) and Honeybee Valley (UGent) in the context of the 'Citizen Science' call of the Flemish Government Department of Economy, Science and Innovation of 11/12/2017.
Vespawatch wants to track the Asian hornet invasion and map its management. The data collected with the help of beekeepers, naturalist volunteers and the public are used to organize management, to perform research into the invasion (invasion speed, invaded areas, management evaluation, impact research) and can also be used for European reporting within the framework of the EU Regulation (Regulation EU 1143/2014) on the prevention of the introduction and spread of Invasive Alien Species. Proper follow-up of the Asian hornet invasion consists of various components:
General passive surveillance: Collecting observations from the naturalist community, beekeepers and the general public through a central reporting portal. Observations are validated and inform control actions.
Specific active surveillance: Beekeepers, fire fighters and entomologists are on the front row to make reliable observations. Their knowledge of bees and insects, and the greater opportunity they have to observe Asian hornet (at beehives, during wasp nest destruction or during inventories of nature reserves) make them the ideal recording community.
Registration and management evaluation: Management actions must be registered for research and evaluation. This is a requirement of the EU Regulation. These data will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of management actions.
Participation of the public in biodiversity research has a long tradition in Belgium. Citizen science increases the transparency, the legitimacy of research for society and provides great economies of scale. For the surveillance and detection of invasive species, citizen science provides an important added value in terms of awareness raising and increased invasion literacy. After all, an effective approach to tackle invasive species requires knowledge about this environmental problem and a general sensitivity towards biological invasions in all sectors of society. Specific Vespawatch activities contribute to keeping the network alive, such as ivy blitzes (after the "bioblitz" model) and organised hornets hunts. Checking flowering ivy or snowberry in autumn, where Asian hornet come to hunt bees, is a good method to actively search for Asian hornets and locate their nests.
INBO and Honeybee Valley coordinate the project and received project support from the Flemish Government (Department of Economy, Science and Innovation). In 2017 INBO created a task force Vespa velutina following the discovery of the first nest. This task force consists of 8 partners: Honeybee Valley, INBO, Natuurpunt, Agency for Nature and Forest (ANB), De Lieteberg, the Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries Research (ILVO) and the fire brigade. These partners work together on monitoring the species and organising its management.