March 2015 – Asian Hornets

Winter 2014 was an exceptionally stormy season, with at least 12 major winter storms affecting the UK in two spells from mid-December to early January, and again from late January to mid-February. This was the stormiest period of weather experienced by the UK for at least 20 years, and this winter has had more very severe gale days than any other winter season for more than 100 years.

The persistent heavy rainfall through the season resulted in this being the wettest winter for the UK since 1910.

Late Winter/early Spring saw generally unsettled and localised conditions, dry spells, wet spells, cold spells and mild spells, sunshine was well above normal in many areas, rainfall above or below depending on locality.

All this may have a positive outcome for the survival of this year’s Queen wasps as it may have kept them from emerging from hibernation too early as has happened for the last two years in which a mild late Winter followed by a cold snap in early Spring killed off huge numbers of Queen wasps. This may bode well for a recovery in the UK wasp population which, as with many flying insects, has been decimated in the past few years.

The Hymenoptera curator of the Natural History Museum referred a little while ago to press speculation that there was an invasion pending of the Asian Hornet and opined that as it had become established in France and Belgium it is likely that we will see it soon.

The danger threatened however is not to people but to the environment. The arrival of non-native species can often have an unwelcome effect on local wildlife such as that which happened in the UK with the grey squirrel and the mink.