An image of an oriental hornet taken in Malaga, after a nest was destroyed. SUR
Plague of oriental hornets threaten honey bees and crops as they advance across Malaga province

Plague of oriental hornets threaten honey bees and crops as they advance across Malaga province

Agricultural associations are urging the Junta de Andalucía to take action as the aggressive invasive species is endangering both local flora and fauna

Matías Stuber

Monday, 13 November 2023, 17:29


Oriental hornets are starting to spread across Malaga province and threatening bee colonies and crops as they advance.

Residents from Malaga city and the inland town of Cártama to coastal destinations such as Torremolinos and Benalmádena have noticed the presence of the invasive hornets and are urging the Junta to take action. The Oriental hornets attack honey-producing bees and can damage crops such as citrus and wheat.

José Antonio Fortés is a beekeeper from Malaga with several hives in Alcaucín, and said they pose a great threat. "If the bee hive's defences fail and it manages to get in, the bees can be gone in five minutes," he warned. The Oriental hornet's behaviour is similar to that of any species that has the ability to move in swarms. "First they send out the scouts. They get into the hives. If you have a healthy hive, with good defences, the bees kill these scouts. But if you don't, they go out and warn the rest. They come back in swarms and take everything," Fortés said.

The bee becomes a delicacy for this invasive species that started to first appear in Malaga province in 2016. "They enter the hive, cut off their heads and eat the abdomen, which carries the honey and pollen," he pointed out.

President of the Malaga Beekeepers' Association, Fernando de Miguel, told SUR the Oriental hornet could become a serious problem if its spread is not controlled. "At the moment, it is not the most damaging thing for us beekeepers, but any species of this type is a threat and it is important that it is controlled," he said.

Agricultural association COAG also sounded the alarm, warning of the "progressive expansion" of the Oriental hornet and the dangers it poses for the countryside. "The vespa orientalis is attacking hives in search of food, taking the honey and pollen reserves and destroying the brood," said regional COAG president Antonio Vázquez. The association wants the hornet to be declared an "invasive exotic species" and demands the Junta implement a control plan "in which the local councils are involved".

Asaja, a major agricultural association in Malaga, is also concerned about the spread of the hornet. Asaja's head of fruit and vegetables Benjamín Faulí told SUR the pest is endangering the natural pollination cycle of fruit trees. "The Junta must be aware of what is happening and act to prevent the presence of this species from becoming irreversible," he said.

According to official Junta sources, responsibility for this matter lies with the regional ministry of the environment. The council's delegate in Malaga José Antonio Víquez told SUR that environment officers are aware of the problems caused by the Oriental hornet. "We are monitoring it," said Víquez.

An aggressive species

Juan Zamudio is the manager of Rapiplaga, a company specialising in pest extermination. He said a lot of work has emerged in the past few weeks due to the hornets. "We have gone from dealing with a case once a month to having a job practically every day," he told SUR. The pest expert said it is a "very aggressive" species and is endangering both local flora and fauna. "It is spreading at an enormous speed. We are already at a point where we can talk about exponential growth," Zamudio said.

He said what's caused the spread has been a lack of action by regional and local authorities to attack nests and colonies. High temperatures are also contributing to their spread throughout Malaga province. "It's not normal for them to be laying nests in November. But with these temperatures they have no problem," he added.

Zamudio predicted the plague to intensify in the province and will become one of the great enemies of agriculture "in the next five years". He said there are no "effective traps" to kill the pest if it is detected. "Everything depends on killing the nest," he pointed out. The extermination takes place at night, once all the hornets are inside the nest. "At that time, a special solution is applied to the nest and it can be destroyed. You can never act on the nest in the middle of the day. When the hornets return and realise the nest is gone, they become very aggressive."

Zamudio recommends notifying the relevant local council if a nest is detected.

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