BREST, France—Faced with the loss of 35 hives to the invasive Asian giant hornet, French beekeeper Denis Jaffré knew he had to act quickly to save his bees.
Known as “murder hornets,” they have no natural predators and can eat through an entire hive in a few hours. They have decimated bee colonies across Europe.
“I had to find a solution at all cost. I had been so traumatised by the loss of half of my hives,” Jaffré said.
So in 2016 the Brittany beekeeper came up with a device with a one-way mechanism like a lobster pot to catch the hornets, thought to have arrived in France in 2004 in a pottery shipment from China.
Originally made from a wooden wine crate and metal mesh, his traps are now 3D-printed in plastic. After receiving a French inventors prize in 2018, Jaffré started making the traps in bulk. Demand is so high, he has had stop taking orders to catch up.
He employs six staff and ships to several European countries.
Attracted by a sugary bait, the hornets get in through a one-way funnel on the contraption and once inside they cannot get out, while smaller insects can escape through tiny holes in the walls.
“If you don’t set up traps, you see the hornets fly in front of the beehive entrance, they catch a bee and they fly away with it to go and cut it into pieces somewhere else. It is very hard when you see that all day long,” said fellow beekeeper Christian Petit, one of the first to try out Jaffré’s trap prototypes.
Jaffré, who also removes hornet nests in homes and gardens, said that while destroying the nests prevents accidents, it does little to stop the spread of the insect.
He said the only way to control the hornets would be by systematic trapping all over the country, with local government support.
By Manuel Ausloos