Notes from Dewey – October 2023

by Dewey M. Caron, Communications and Content Specialist for the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program

Some Master Beekeeper Program cross pollination

The Colorado Master Beekeeper Program is patterned after the Oregon requirements.  They recently had their initial tests for their first Master candidates. Dr. Sagili and Dr. Caron were members of the oral examination committee and Dewey developed the Master knowledge test and criteria as Scientific Advisor. One competed the requirements and another has a couple of items to finish. Congratulations on the new Colorado Masters!

Dewey journeyed to the east coast in mid-September to provide content with lectures and did testing of the Georgia Master Beekeeper Program. Dewey was on the examining committee for a new Georgia Master candidate who successfully defended her Master Craftsman project. Congratulations to those advancing in the Georgia Master beekeepers Journey and Masters programs.

New Hawking wasp

Georgia has discovered and eliminated two nests of a new invading honey bee pest Vespa velutina, the yellow-legged hornet. The yellow-legged hornet is a social wasp species that constructs typical hornet paper nests above ground, concealed in vegetation. Nest populations can become large, housing over a thousand workers. It is a voracious predator of insects; bees and other wasps are their favorite food.

The yellow-legged hornet represents a novel means of how a pest might exploit honey bees. The adult wasps hawk in front of active colonies. They communicate the source of the bee colony to nest mates and then join together as a flying curtain just before the bee nest entrance to pick slower-flying, heavily laden returning honey bee foragers out of the air. They capture bees on the wing, cut off parts they do not want and fly back to their nest with head (or thorax). They can further weaken weak colonies and cause forager paralysis at the entrance. Their presence effectively halts incoming and exiting by honey bees. They do not enter or land on bee hives, nor scavenge dead/dying foragers like our yellowjackets.

It is a brand new pest to the US. The yellow-legged hornet is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. It has invaded Korea and Japan and Europe, (introduced into France and since spread to Portugal, northern Spain, southern England and spreading into Belgium and Italy). See the MDPI Journal Diversity:  Gard Otis has an excellent review in October Bee Culture The diagram of where it might occur in the US if it becomes established is from Villemant, C., et. Al. 2021. Biological Conservation doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2011.04.009.

From their experience in Georgia, it is clear we need to be vigilant to keep this hawking hornet out of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Beekeepers in Georgia were the first to sound the alarm of the introduction. OSU bee lab or ODA personnel are anxious to hear from you if you notice a medium sized (larger than yellowjackets) with prominent yellow legs wasp hawking in front of colony entrances in your apiary. Photos are useful. See website for photo of this new potential wasp.