A swarm of Asian hornets attacked and sprayed a fire service drone with venom as it was trying to take a closer look at the nest.
Once the nest had been spotted by beekeepers with binoculars, Jersey’s Department for the Environment sent a heat-seeking drone with high resolution cameras to inspect the nest, which authorities and beekeepers had spent months looking for.
The heat differential was not enough between the trees and the nest to be picked out accurately by the drone, but the sound of its propellers reportedly prompted the hornets to swarm out and spray the drone with venom, according to the operators.
The drone was inspecting a large “secondary nest” near La Crete Quarry, St Martin. The nest is thought to be home to around 6,000 hornets, and the Jersey Fire and Rescue Service wanted to inspect it before making plans as to how they could remove it. Hornets can cause local populations of bees, wasps and other pollinators to plummet.
The first nest discovered in a garage in Fliquet, in north east Jersey, was destroyed in June.
The team might return with a ladder and a long carbon fibre lance, which they put into the nest and spray pesticides.
Robert Hogge of the Jersey Beekeepers Association told the Jersey Evening Post, “Because of the diminishing window of opportunity to destroy all the nests before a new generation of queen emerges every possible insight that we can gain into finding the nests, which are likely to be in the tops of leafy trees, the more chance there is to discover the five-plus nests that are thought to be active on the Island.
“While individual hornets are docile and are of little risk unless attacked the nest itself is rigorously defended.”
He said there could be four other secondary nests, which are formed after a queen creates enough drones – male bees – in an initial smaller nest.
Tim Du Feu, director of environmental protection and president of the beekeepers association in Jersey, told The Independent that secondary nests are extremely difficult to spot high up in trees, despite measuring up to 1m high and 80cm across.
"Asian hornets moved into Jersey last year," he said. "They are extremely good at colonising areas very quickly, and we have a minimum of three nests left to find."
Finding the nests is an intricate and lengthy process. The beekeepers association set up several feeding stations, soaking tissue in a sugary substance, where they can capture the hornets, mark them and time them as they fly back and forth to the nest. Via setting up several stations, beekeepers can identify the direction the bees are flying and look for the nest in a smaller area with binoculars.
Mr Du Feu said the drone operation failed, but it had not been damaged and just needed a "quick clean".
According to the National Bee Unit, an Asian hornet queen measures up to 3cm in length, while the workers measure up to 25mm.
Asian hornets are also noticeable via their dark brown or black velvety body, with a fine yellow band around it. They have black heads with an orange-yellow face, and brown legs with yellow ends.
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