Beekeeper Dumps Nest With 1,500 Asian Hornets Outside Town Hall in France

A beekeeper left a nest containing 1,500 Asian hornets outside a town hall in France in protest at what he said was a lack of help from the local authority in tackling the invasive species.

Christian Grasland said he delivered the nest of hornets to a municipal building in Mauron, in the Brittany region of northwest France, to "raise awareness" about Asian hornets.

The insect is the largest member of the wasp family and conservationists have warned that the invasive species' existence in Europe could have a devastating impact on local honeybee populations.

They were first introduced to Europe in 2004, when they are believed to have entered France via cargo. Since then, there have been numerous sightings of Asian hornets across western Europe.

They are different from the Asian giant hornet, also known as the "murder hornet," which has been sighted in North America but is not known to be present in Europe.

"I am a friend of the bee and an enemy of the Asian hornet," Grasland was quoted as saying in French newspaper Ouest France.

He said a few days earlier he had asked for help from the local authority to destroy the nest, but this request was refused.

"I was refused on the fact that the nest is on the private domain," he said. "If the nest is so dangerous at the door of the town hall and I am a fool for having placed it there, why is it not quite as crazy to leave it outside a private house," he asked.

In a statement the mayor of Mauron, Yves Chasles, said: "A nest of Asian hornets was deposited Monday, October 12, 2020, in the morning, in front of the entrance door of the town hall. I have nothing against the beekeeper, who also works as a destroyer of hornet nests. But he was in the wrong, because it endangered our fellow citizens."

The local authority said it had a scheme to help residents to remove or destroy hornet nests—offering to reimburse those who had the work done with €30 ($35).

asian hornet nest
This picture taken on October 14, 2020, in Chisseaux near Tours, France, shows Asian hornets on their nest. Asian hornets are identifiable by their larger heads in relation to their body size, and the fact that they look almost black. ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

Gavin Broad, a wasp expert at the Natural History Museum in London, said Asian hornets pose a problem as they eat honeybees.

"They are specialised honeybee predators and beekeepers are concerned," he said.

"The hornets raid honeybee hives by sitting outside them and capturing workers as they go in and out. They chop them up and feed the thorax to their young."

Asian hornets are identifiable by their larger heads in relation to their body size, and their very dark colorings.