Mallorca, the first European territory to eradicate the Asian hornet

05/19/2021 at 9:03 AM CEST

Mallorca has definitely become the first territory in all of Europe that has managed to eradicate the dangerous Asian hornet, which is widespread throughout almost all of Spain. Although this possibility was already advanced at the end of last year, the island authorities have just confirmed that the species has been officially eradicated in the archipelago. It has been more than two years since no new nest has been located, despite the fact that the traps are still active and vigilance is maintained. How has it been possible to get rid of this aggressive invasive species? The experience developed on this island can serve as an example to combat the killer wasp, as it is also known.

The last nest of this species in Mallorca, the only island in the archipelago where it had been detected, was located in July 2018. Since then, although the trapping system has been maintained, the presence of this has not been detected again. species on the island. In total, 32 nests have been located and destroyed and 89 specimens have been captured.

The Minister for the Environment, Miquel Mir, attributes the success in eliminating this invasive species «to great effort and the enormous task of coordination»Of all the actors involved. In addition, he also highlighted “the great relevance of citizen participation in this great collective success.”

In this sense, he explained that a good part of the notices that made it possible to locate nests have come directly from the public. Thus, organizations such as 112, COFIB or the Vespapp application, developed by the University of the Balearic Islands (UIB) have also been key in the eradication of the species. The PhD in Biology from the UIB Mar Leza pointed out that some 1,200 notices have been received through the application.

The head of the Species Protection Service, Ivan Ramos, stressed, for his part, that among the reasons why this success can be explained, several must be mentioned. So, for example, he said that it began to act almost immediately since the detection of the species, in 2015, in the area of ​​the Mirador de ses Barques, in Sóller.

The strategy outlined was aimed at detecting and removing all the nests and the elimination was carried out, mainly, at night, in order to guarantee that all the specimens were inside.

Top priority was given to nest removal before breeding breed appeared and the most effective traps and attractants were acquired to optimize the capture of specimens and the location of nests.

For the placement of traps, the location of the nests in previous seasons was taken into account, as well as the possible routes of expansion, such as valleys and streams.

Ramos also cited, as a key factor, the spring trapping, which allowed the elimination of founding queens, thus preventing further expansion of the species. Temperature and humidity could have made expansion difficult.

Finally, he alluded to insularity as a key factor in favor of the eradication of the species, since this fact helps to avoid continuous entries, as it does in the rest of the State.

For his part, the COFIB technician, Gabriela Picó, recalled that the field work could be carried out thanks to the financing provided by the Agricultural and Fisheries Guarantee Fund (FOGAIBA) through the Rural Development Program (PDR). He also highlighted the enormous challenge of facing the presence of a hitherto unknown species.

“To achieve these results it was essential to design new control protocols that were adjusted to the changing situation we found ourselves in, continually modifying them as we learned more about the species and gained experience in the field,” he explained.

For this reason, three protocols were developed: one for trapping, one for the search for nests and a last for the removal of those nests.

Minister Mir recalled, for his part, that “We have eradicated the species, but not the threat” and stressed that this can be introduced again in the archipelago.

The intention of the Ministry, he said, is to move to a new phase in which emphasis will be placed on prevention and surveillance. In this sense, a biosecurity network will be established with new control points that will include ports and airports, the main entry points for invasive species to the archipelago.

«We are aware that the Asian wasp continues to boom in the Peninsula and that if it has come once, it can come another one ». And he added: “You cannot lower your guard and we have to be prepared for a possible reappearance of this or other invasive alien species.”

The Asian hornet was introduced to France in 2004 and was the first successful invasion of a wasp in Europe. In Spain it was detected for the first time in 2010, specifically in the Navarran town of Amaiur. In October 2015 its presence in Mallorca was confirmed and a nest was removed, in Sóller.

In 2016, nine nests were detected in the municipalities of Sóller, Deià, Fornalutx and Bunyola. The following year, the presence of the species reached its highest peak, with 21 nests detected in the municipalities of Sóller, Deià, Fornalutx, Bunyola, Valldemossa, Esporles, Santa Maria, Lloseta and Escorca. In 2018, on the other hand, and after the campaign carried out, only one nest was detected, in Sóller. Since then, their presence has not been detected again.

The number of traps has varied over the years, in parallel with the expansion of the species. Thus, 67 were installed in 2016, while the following year the figure increased to 250. 2018 and 2019 were the years with the highest trapping, with 582 and 576 traps, respectively. Finally, in 2020 there were 280.

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