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Exceptionally large Asian hornet nest tackled in Sark

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Monday 16 October 2023

An exceptionally large Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) nest was treated and removed in Sark last week by Guernsey's Asian hornet team.

The domed nest measured 50cm by 70cm; internally the biggest comb was 38cm wide.

The surprising discovery of the nest was made by Chris Isaacs, a specialist from Jersey who is conducting research on Asian hornets on behalf of the States of Jersey. He was among a group of Jersey scientists on board the boat from Guernsey travelling to attend the Inter-Island Environment Meeting in Sark at the end of September. Hornet nests are often very well camouflaged and difficult to locate but this one was so conspicuous it left little doubt as soon as it was spotted. The size of the nest made it clearly visible from the Sark ferry as it passed by Point Banquette on the north-easterly side of the island.

It is thought that this nest may have originated from one of the queens that arrived in Sark during the spring months and so it may have been developing over the past six months.

The nest, suspended on a single slender branch of a shrubby sycamore, was treated in the morning and removed three hours later. The policy is that all hornet nests are retrieved, double bagged and placed inside a freezer for 48 hours which is necessary to prevent the later emergence of more hornets.

Examination of the nest confirmed that although a few queens were already present, a substantial number were just on the point of emerging and expected to leave the nest in the next two weeks. A conservative estimate would put the number of potential new queens in excess of 750. Consequently, this nest was removed at a crucial time.

This year the States of Guernsey's hornet team have been working closely with Peter Cunneen, the Sark volunteer coordinator who works on behalf of the Sark Government to ensure that islanders and visitors are aware of the importance of reporting Asian hornets. This is the sixth nest that has been safely removed in Sark during this year.

It is thought that one or two more hornet's nests remain active in Sark and have yet to be found. If anyone spots what they believe to be an Asian Hornet in Sark or Guernsey, they are asked not to kill it, but instead to take a picture and observe the direction it flies in before reporting this information to the Asian hornet team by calling 07839 197082 or emailing asianhornet@gov.gg. The team can then use this information to locate more worker hornets and track them back to the nest. Find out more about how to identify an Asian hornet at gov.gg/asianhornet.

Asian Hornets frequently nest high in trees and once a hornet's nest is suspected the team will arrange for inspection and any necessary removal. 

Peter Cunneen, Sark's Asian hornet volunteer coordinator, said:

"This nest has eluded me since early June, so I am extremely grateful to Chris Isaacs for spotting it from the ferry and to both the Jersey and Guernsey Asian hornet teams for all the help they've provided. It's a superb example of inter-island cooperation and a great outcome for the Inter-Island Environment Meeting."

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