Predation of the invasive Asian hornet affects foraging activity and survival probability of honey bees in Western Europe

Abstract

Introduced in France more than a decade ago from China, the invasive Asian hornet Vespa velutina preys on honey bee Apis mellifera foragers at hive entrances and is a major concern for Western European beekeepers and governmental policies. Asian hornet predation is suspected to weaken honey bee colonies before the winter season. In this study, we assessed the risk of winter colony losses related to hornet-induced disturbances by combining field observations and model system simulations. We provide empirical evidence in bee foragers’ homing failures and bee foraging paralysis behaviour of the colony related to the predator–prey relationships between the hornet and the honey bees nearby colonies’ entrances. Our model-based assessment confirms concerns of beekeepers and governmental policies that these hornet-induced disturbances affect honey bee colony dynamics and winter survival. Simulations reveal that the foraging paralysis behavioural response of honey bee colonies is an important mechanism underlying winter colony collapse. We provide recommendations of beekeeping management to mitigate potential detrimental effects from hornets to ensure bee colony survival, such as the control of the hornet-induced foraging paralysis of Western European honey bee colonies that may be viewed as an unadapted behavioural response to the invasive predator.

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Acknowledgements

Special thanks go to J.F. Odoux, P. Aupinel, C. Toullet, J. Andrivot and M. Dufour for help in the fieldwork, and M. Becher and F. Brun for constructive comments on simulations. We also thank the beekeepers who offered access to their apiaries, especially S. Mignot-Gasparoux, A. Lavignotte, M.J.C. Berlioz, A. Richard, O. Coulon, Y. Ducourt, S. Berthomé, B. Devaure, H. Marques de Brito, Association entre l’herbe et le vent, P. Nikiel, P. Fert, O. Bessonnet, J.F. Serra, M. Deux, L. Gouverneur, L. Jezequel, Y. Le Dantec, and Mon village espace de biodiversité. We are grateful to Jed Long and Urska Demsar for critical reading of English used in the text, as well as three anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported by grants from the European Community Program (797/2004) for French beekeeping (RISQAPI project) and the program of University cooperation between France and Argentina about Art & Innovation (INNOVART project).

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Correspondence to Fabrice Requier.

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Communicated by M. Traugott.

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Requier, F., Rome, Q., Chiron, G. et al. Predation of the invasive Asian hornet affects foraging activity and survival probability of honey bees in Western Europe. J Pest Sci 92, 567–578 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10340-018-1063-0

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Keywords

  • Alien species
  • Biological invasion
  • Honey bee colony collapse
  • Mechanistic modelling
  • Predator–prey relationship
  • Yellow-legged hornet