Science offensive to stop the ‘killer wasp’ in Spain

04/27/2021 at 1:05 PM CEST

Stopping the killer wasp in Spain and other European countries is the objective of an offensive launched by the most affected nations. The Asian wasp (Vespa velutina), which accidentally arrived in Europe in 2004 aboard a Chinese freighter, has become a veritable pest: it has already colonized parts of Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany. Y advances unstoppably at an average of 60 kilometers per year in all directions after having caused ten deaths in three years in Spain.

Halting its expansion has become a priority objective of the public administrations of the affected countries. And now also from an international team of European scientists, united in the Atlantic Posi + ive project. The goal, “clip his wings & rdquor; which is popularly known as the “killer wasp”.

The species is causing serious ecological and economic damage, since it destroys bee hives, which together with other pollinating insects constitute one of its main sources of food. So far no solution has been found to help control this growing threat.

Atlantic Posi + ive (Atlantic pollination conservation services and control of the invasive species wasp velutina) will study the expansion processes of this massive predator and will develop control measures.

It is the largest research project launched in Europe to stop the Asian hornet. They know that it will not be easy to achieve this, because the environmental conditions of the Atlantic area are conducive to the biological success of the invader.

The project, in which ten institutions from Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland and the United Kingdom participate, with the collaboration of about twenty private organizations, including beekeepers associations, has a budget of 2.35 million euros, of which 1.76 million are contributed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the rest by the partners of Atlantic Posi + ive.

The first step that the researchers have taken is to develop software to record the movements of the Asian wasp and then establish a map with predictions about the advance or retreat of its proliferation.

The experts will also create a protocol for the capture, tracking and radio surveillance of specimens of the species; nesting methodologies and molecular analysis of parasites that may affect this invasive wasp and mechanisms for its distribution.

Sandra Rojas, researcher at the University of Vigo, explains that the objective of the project is to “contribute to the preservation of pollination services, through the development of joint methods throughout the Atlantic area, while trying to stop the expansion of velutina and, in particular, minimize the impacts of this invasive species on ecosystems, economic activities and society in general, since it is an important disruptor of the activities of the rural environment & rdquor ;.

Spanish participation

The University of Vigo participates in this initiative through two research groups. On the one hand, the Environmental Biology Group, which will evaluate the impacts of the Asian hornet on pollination, and will improve the control and detection methods of nests using radiotelemetry systems and traps with specific baits.

On the other hand, the Aerobiology and Beekeeping Group, which will focus on the study of the diet of wasps, the study of the annual cycle and its relationship with climatic and environmental conditions, and which will compare hive management techniques in invaded areas. to help reduce its impact.

The University of Santiago de Compostela, for its part, will address the economic impact of this invasion, extrapolating a previous study carried out in La Coruña, which indicates that beekeepers invest 20 percent of honey income in control methods. You will also study the environmental and biological factors that determine the spread of the pest and its density.

The two Galician academic entities will collaborate in the design of methods to minimize the velutina population that have the minimum possible ecological impact on native populations and that protect pollination.

Experts consider that some of the methods currently used in the fight against the Asian hornet, such as insecticides or explosives, are dangerous for the ecosystem.

According to the researchers, the most effective and environmentally friendly system is that of electric traps, which capture Asian wasps but allow smaller species to pass through.

Atlantic Posi + ive, in which two other Spanish public bodies (General Directorate of Natural Heritage and the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development) also participate, seeks to create a “common strategy for the entire Atlantic region & rdquor; with its own guidelines and procedures.

The key aspect of the project will therefore be its transnational approach, which will facilitate the analysis and integration of information in the Atlantic area, ensuring the development of the most appropriate tools for the effective control of this pest, which according to scientists could be aggravated by climate change.

The participants in the project (entities from Spain, Portugal, France, United Kingdom and Ireland) have extensive experience in the areas of knowledge related to the proposed activities, such as pollination biology, conservation, veterinary medicine, beekeeping, chemistry, epidemiology, genetics and radio monitoring systems. And they have modern infrastructures and technological resources to carry out the tasks.

The Asian wasp is included in the European Union List of Exotic Species of Concern and in the list and the Spanish catalog of invasive alien species. Although it is not usually aggressive towards people, unless it is believed in danger, in Spain it has caused a dozen deaths in the last three years.

In Asturias alone, through a public-private initiative in which more than 7,000 volunteers participate, 124,921 specimens of this species were captured last year.

Project website: http://atlanticpositive.eu/

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