What will the Asian hornet invasion cost Europe? – ScienceDaily

Since its accidental introduction in France in 2003, the yellow-legged Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) has been spreading rapidly in Europe. Both experts and citizen scientists continue to identify the new intruder that has spread across the old continent over the past few decades.

In a recent study, French scientists led by Prof. Franck Courchamp of the Université Paris-Saclay and the CNRS tried to evaluate the first estimated control costs for this invasion. Funded by the INVACOST project, their results are published in the open access journal NeoBiota.

Since its invasion of France in 2004 when it was accidentally introduced from China, the Asiatic hornet has spread rapidly, colonizing most of France at speeds of around 60-80 km per year, and invading other European countries as well: Spain in 2010, Portugal and Belgium in 2011, Italy in 2012, Germany in 2014 and Great Britain in 2016. In the article recently published in the open access journal Evolutionary Systematics, Dr. Martin Hussemann from CeNaK of the University of Hamburg presented the northernmost catch of the Asian hornet in Hamburg in September 2019.

These data show that the Asian hornet is spreading faster across Europe from year to year, even in regions with less favorable climates. The species’ rapid invasion is not necessarily caused by human-mediated spread; the species can spread quickly on its own, but it is still not uncommon.

Within its native and invasive range, V. velutina nigrithorax actively hunts honeybees and thus damages beekeeping. Due to its active prayer for wild insects, the Asian hornet also has a negative impact on ecosystems in general, contributing to the global decline in pollination services and honey production. In addition, the Asian hornet, known for its aggressive behavior, is a potential threat to human activities from nesting in urban areas.

Currently, invasion is controlled primarily through nest destruction and bait trapping, but none of these methods are sufficient to achieve total extinction.

In order to proceed with further control of the invasion, the economic cost must be assessed. These costs fall into 3 main categories: (1) preventing the invasion, (2) fighting the invasion, and (3) damage caused by the invasion.

The cost of fighting Asian hornet invasion is the cost of nest destruction. To determine these costs, the research team examined information about the companies providing the nest destruction services, spatially extrapolated the nest destruction costs, and modeled the potential spread of the invasion model.

As the calculations show, the estimated annual repayment costs are currently EUR 11.9 million for France, EUR 9.0 million for Italy and EUR 8.6 million for the United Kingdom.

“In 2006, just two years after the hornet was first observed in France, three departments were raided and the cost of destroying the nest was estimated at 408,000 euros. when the hornet continues to spread and enter new compartments. Overall, we have estimated the cost of nest destruction between 2006 and 2015 at € 23 million) we expect the annual nest destruction costs to reach an estimated value of € 11.9 million in just 12 years.

In Japan and South Korea, where the species has already been observed, the total annual cost of nest destruction is estimated at € 19.5 million and € 11.9 million, respectively.

So far, the most effective way to fight the invasion is eradicating the nests, but it’s not enough. As a result, only 30-40% of the nests discovered in France are destroyed each year so far. In addition, these destroyed nests are not the result of a controlled strategy, only those that have been identified as having particular potential harm to human or beekeeping activities. The researchers point out that this is not enough.

In conclusion, the scientists call for more active measures and research related to the invasion of V. velutina nigrithorax. If other countries such as the USA, Australia, Turkey and Argentina appear climatically suitable for the species, these are also endangered (e.g. € 26.9 million for the USA).

The current study only presents initial estimates of the economic costs of the Asian hornet, but more action definitely needs to be taken to deal with harmful invasive species – one of the greatest threats to biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems.

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