Everyone can help track the Asian hornet invasion. Here’s a list of things you can do to get involved:
- Learn to recognize Asian hornet
- Report observations of hornets and nests
- Help us verify records
- Actively search for hornet nests
Step-by-step: reporting an observation
- Take pictures. We acknowledge taking a picture of a flying insect is challenging, yet to be useful, records need to be submitted with photographic evidence. Observations with a photo can be verified by experts. If you spotted a hornet, but were unable to take a picture, keep an eye out at the same location and try to get an image or search the help of others.
- Go to Report observations, select the species you think you observed
- Upload the photo(s)
- Add additional details with your observation and Report it
- Check the validation status of your observation on iNaturalist
Actively search for hornet nests
Research revealed hornet workers forage within a 2000 m perimeter around their nest. Here, they catch on average 2 prey items per hour. If you observe a hornet foraging a nest must be close. We have seven clues to help you track down the exact location of a hornet nest:
Clue 1: Report, report, report, ...
Not sure about your identification? Not to worry! Take a picture and upload it to vespawatch.be. You will get to recognize wasps thanks to the validation by the community. Observations of other hornets at the same location? No problem! The more observations the better. The frequency of observations at a location also contributes to the project. Reporting the same hornet with two people? Fantastic! Duplicate observations are automatically recognized. Unable to take a good photo? Ask neighbors, friends or acquaintances to help you.
Clue 2: Look for hornets where you can find them
To find hornets, you must be aware of their way of life. Hornets actively hunt for insects and collect sugar-containing food and wood fibers for their nest. The chance of encountering a hornet are therefore greater in places with lots of small insects, on nectar plants or where dead wood can be found. Good locations to go look for hornets in summer are:
- Places with lots of flies: horse stable, dung heap, chicken run
- Ripe (fallen) fruit: especially pears and apples are rich in sugars
- Late flowering plants: common ivy (Hedera helix) and snowberry (Symphoricarpos) offer a treat from September for many insects
- Lumber or other wooden objects
Clue 3: Observe the flight direction of hornets
Hornets return to the nest with their prey. First, the hornet will hang upside down on a twig as it dissects its prey. Then, the insect will clamp the meatball between thorax and legs, and flies with it to the nest. If there are many trees or houses around, the hornet can first make a turn. Keep following the hornet until it is out of sight (+ - 30 meters). Hornets take a certain flight altitude to fly on average at 30 km/h.
Clue 4: Triangulation or three-point method (_beelining_)
By identifying several flight directions of hornets returing to the nest with prey, a few hundred meters apart from each, and plotting these on a map, the approximate location of the nest can be obtained.
Clue 5: Asian hornets are loyal hunters
Beekeepers noticed the same hornets returned to the same beehive every day for a period of four weeks. Also, hornets were observed hunting on to the same ivy bush for three weeks. So hornets are quite faithful to the places they know where they search for food. Good to know if you want to observe them better and try to take pictures.
Clue 6: Inform beekeepers in the neighborhood
Have you seen Asian hornet? Then beekeepers in the neighborhood will really appreciate being informed about this. Get on social media and try to inform them. Chances are real they were also visited by hornets at their hives or perhaps they were simply unaware. Beekeepers spend time at beehives and can also help you to send observations or take pictures.
Clue 7: Mobilize your neighbors and look for hornets together
Tracking an Asian hornet’s nest requires a solid plan of action. Group searches have a greater chance of success. Nests can be in trees, surprisingly close, but well hidden. An extra pair of eyes can make all the difference. In private places (gardens, private forests) it is often difficult to search for a nest because the place cannot be accessed enough. Sometimes residents know that there are big wasps in the garden shed, but they do not think or know about Asian hornets. Informing and working together are key. The more eyes are on the lookout, the faster a nest is found!
- Revisit locations with observations earlier in the season
- Organize nest searches in groups of 3 or more people
- Inform people at strategic places such as beekeepers, the bakery, the local firefighter,...
Clue 8: Time of day and weather conditions
European hornets, like Asian hornets, hunts small insects. However, one important difference is European hornets hunt day and night. Asian hornets only hunts during the day. If you observe a hornet at dusk against an outside light or window, this is more likely a European hornet and not an Asian hornet. Hornets are not active when it rains and are less active on cloudy days. The average temperature is also important. In summer, hornets are active from one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset, but they have an activity peak around noon.