Insects

Vespa Velutina in Galicia, Spain – Catching the Asian Hornet

Vespa Velutina also referred to as the Asian Hornet, or the yellow-legged hornet, is an invasive species of hornet which seems to be making a big impact in Spain.

Where I’m now based in Galicia, the Velutina are common in my garden and in the past few weeks have really come out in force. They seem to love pear trees, fig trees, grapevines, and just about any other sweet fruits. Obviously there’s nothing about them which makes them edible – I just wanted to share my own findings about them here on the blog.

Asian Hornet or Vespa Velutina

They’ve not just spread to Spain though; they’ve also been found commonly in France and Italy, and it’s highly likely they’ll eventually go further – there have been a few sightings in the UK, but most of those seem to have been dealt with pretty swiftly by relevant authorities.

Here’s a PDF from the UK’s Non-Native Species secretariat organisation (NSSS) on identifying the Asian Hornet.

How to catch the Asian Hornet (Vespa Velutina)

For me I’ve simply been using old plastic water bottles to catch Velutina, making use of old beer, wine, or a mixture of sugar and vinegar.

Instructions for making a Vespa Velutina trap:

  1. Take a large (1 litre+) plastic bottle and carefully remove the neck.
  2. Take another large plastic bottle and mid-way down the side cut a small circle, large enough to insert the neck of the other bottle. This will be the entrance Velutina use to get inside the bottle.
  3. Fill the bottle with a sweet liquid; old beer seems to work well (around 4% ideally) or wine.
  4. Tie string around the bottle (if your bottle has a plastic handle, this works perfectly) and hang in a suitable location, such as a fruit tree.
  5. Monitor the trap regularly to ensure you’re not trapping and killing native bees, wasps or other insects.

The idea is that the Velutina can enter the trap easily, being funnelled inside, but lack the ability to escape through the same entrance (which is only a few millimetres in diameter from the inside). There’s more information available on trapping Velutina here from the National Bee Unit, based in the UK.

How long have Vespa Velutina been in Spain?

According to Google Trends, it’s clear that searches for “Velutina” really took a sharp rise in Summer last year within Spain – check the graph from Google below. According to this, the last few weeks in July saw a huge increase in searches within Spain – so this is likely when Velutina are most active in that particular country.

If we look specifically at the regions within Spain that have a problem with Velutina, we’d probably determine that Galicia seems to the region most affected by them:

Reporting Vespa Velutina sightings or nests

Nests are extremely dangerous and shouldn’t be tackled on your own. Ideally you should contact your local council authority to ask for advice when it comes to removing Velutina nests. They are too dangerous to even consider attempting to remove without professional help.

Have you been indundated with Velutina where you are? I’d be interested to hear – especially if you have any other tips on catching them, or which baits to use in the trap.

Lifestyle

An Interview with Amber Westfall from The Wild Garden in Ottawa

Back in March I had the pleasure of speaking with Amber Westfall, forager and owner of The Wild Garden in Ottawa, Canada. Amber is heavily involved with foraging for wild edibles and medicinal plants, and she devotes her time to this and running a small-scale business that delivers foraged boxes in the post every month.

Wild Garden Ottawa
The Wild Garden Ottawa

I was interested in learning more about Amber and the work she’s doing out in Ottawa so I had a chat with her, the transcript you can find below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed speaking with her, she was incredibly knowledgeable about many wild plants and refreshingly enthusiastic about foraging and permaculture!

Fungi

Pickled Hedgehog Mushrooms Recipe

New guest blogger Phil and her recipe for pickled hedgehog mushrooms

“Hello” to all fellow foragers here! My name is Phil. I am a food blogger, cook and forager from Vienna, Austria, and the nice people (Matt & Silvia!) from ForagedFoods.co.uk asked me to join them and share some insights and recipes related to foraging here. And I am excited to do so!

First on my list – and requested by popular demand – is my recipe for pickled hedgehog mushrooms.

Acorns & Nuts

Now is the Perfect Time to pick Hazelnuts or Cobnuts

Now is the perfect time to be harvesting and collecting Hazelnuts (or Cobnuts) from trees and hedgerows in the wild. There are many different Hazelnut trees growing throughout the United Kingdom, especially in places like Kent, Dorset, Worcestershire and Devon. They are still grown commercially in many of these locations, though when cultivated or grown this way the nut is usually larger, and is referred to as a Cobnut.

Seashore & Rivers

The best way to cook your foraged mussels.

Mussels (Mytilus edulis) are a common ingredient in Spanish cuisine. They are cooked in many different ways, either just boiled with a squeeze of lemon juice over them, or even better, added to stews or paella.
After spending a couple of weeks in Galicia (north-west corner of Spain) and trying a few of these plates made by locals, I found that my absolute favourite is as easy to make as it is delicious.

Foraging for seafood in Galicia is, however, forbidden by law, as there are professional “Marisqueiros” (seafood collectors), who need to have a license to catch and sell the fruits of their seas. Thankfully, the situation in the UK is different and makes it possible for seafood-lovers to make a trip to their nearest beach and try to find these little black-and-orange animals. The amount and size of mussels you find around the coasts of the British Isles are much smaller than in Galicia, so make sure you don’t take more than you need and let the small ones continue to live on the rocks.  It’s also really important to try and get advice from the locals before you go out foraging for mussels, as they may be kind enough to warn you of issues with water quality, local sewage outflow pipes (which you’d want to avoid for obvious reasons), and anything else you may need to be aware of, including any kind of local bylaws preventing the collecting of the mussels.