A biodiversity-friendly method to mitigate the invasive Asian hornet’s impact on European honey bees

Abstract

The Asian hornet is an invasive predator of honey bees in Western Europe. The Asian hornet-related risk of bee colony mortality has motivated the development of biological and physical control methods over the past years. Although the technical cost–benefit ratio has been established for most of these control methods, it is still unclear whether such methods can reduce the detrimental effects of the Asian hornet on European honey bees. In this study, we investigated the potential benefits of a biodiversity-friendly control method, the beehive muzzle. We observed the flight activity of bees and the predation behaviour of the Asian hornets at the beehive entrance of 22 pairs of honey bee colonies, each with one muzzle-equipped colony and one control colony without muzzle, in France. We measured HF (bee homing failure due to hornet predation of bees) and FP (foraging paralysis: the stop of flight activity in beehives due to hovering hornets), and estimated the mortality probability of the colonies using a mechanistic modelling approach. The beehive muzzle did not reduce the hornet-related HF, but drastically reduced FP. Moreover, the muzzle increased the survival probability of hornet-stressed colonies up to 51% in context of high abundance of Asian hornets based on theoretical simulations. These results suggest that installing beehive muzzles can mitigate the detrimental effect of the Asian hornet on European honey bees. This low-cost technique does not lead to any environmental impacts and could therefore be recommended to beekeepers as an effective biodiversity-friendly method of Asian hornet control.

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Acknowledgements

Special thanks go to A. Lavignotte for conception of the Muzzle setup and constructive discussions. We are grateful to F. Nürnberger for his constructive comments at the first stages of the manuscript. We also thank F. Muller and the beekeepers for help in the field, especially S. Mignot-Gasparoux, A. Lavignotte, the 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, and Y. Le Dantec. Finally, we thank the four anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on the manuscript.

Funding

This study was supported by grants from the European Community Program (797/2004) for French beekeeping (RISQAPI project), the French Ministry of Ecology and the French Ministry of Agriculture.

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Correspondence to Fabrice Requier.

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Requier, F., Rome, Q., Villemant, C. et al. A biodiversity-friendly method to mitigate the invasive Asian hornet’s impact on European honey bees. J Pest Sci 93, 1–9 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10340-019-01159-9

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Keywords

  • Apis mellifera
  • Biological invasion
  • Control methods
  • Predator–prey interaction
  • Yellow-legged hornet