Beekeeper invents trap to tackle Asian hornets

CORRECTION: CORRECTS HEADLINE AND FIRST TWO LINES TO MAKE CLEAR THAT THE HORNET IS THE "ASIAN HORNET," NOT THE "ASIAN GIANT HORNET" OR "MURDER HORNET".

When he lost 35 hives to the invasive Asian hornet, French beekeeper Denis Jaffré knew he must act quickly.

Asian hornets have no natural predators and can eat through an entire hive in a few hours. They have decimated bee colonies across Europe.

Jaffré lost the hives in Brittany in 2016.

"I thought to myself I had to find a solution at all costs. I would even think about it at night. I took to having a pencil and paper on my bedside table, to write down whatever ideas I had, because I was so traumatized by the loss of half my hives that year. It was a catastrophe."

What Jaffré came up with was a one-way trap like a lobster pot to catch the hornets, which are thought to have arrived in France in 2004 in a pottery shipment from China.

Attracted by a sugary bait, the hornets get in through a funnel then can't get out, while smaller insects, including bees, can escape through tiny holes.

Originally made from a wooden wine crate and metal mesh, the traps are now 3D-printed in plastic.

Jaffré received a French inventors' prize in 2018, and started making the traps in bulk, employing six workers. Demand is so high, he has had to pause taking orders.

Fellow beekeeper Christian Petit was one of the first to try out a prototype.

"If you don't set up traps, you see the hornets fly in front of the beehive entrance, they choose their menu, they catch a bee and they fly away with it to go and cut it into pieces in a quiet little bush."

Jaffré also removes hornet nests from homes and gardens, but said while it prevents nasty accidents, it does little to stop the spread.

The only way to combat the threat, he says, would be systematic trapping all over the country, with local government support.

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