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Flight capacities of yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax, Hymenoptera: Vespidae) workers from an invasive population in Europe

by Daniel Sauvard, Vanessa Imbault, Éric Darrouzet

The invasive yellow-legged hornet, Vespa velutina nigrithorax Lepeletier, 1836 (Hymenoptera: Vespidae), is native to Southeast Asia. It was first detected in France (in the southwest) in 2005. It has since expanded throughout Europe and has caused significant harm to honeybee populations. We must better characterize the hornet’s flight capacity to understand the species’ success and develop improved control strategies. Here, we carried out a study in which we quantified the flight capacities of V. velutina workers using computerized flight mills. We observed that workers were able to spend around 40% of the daily 7-hour flight tests flying. On average, they flew 10km to 30km during each flight test, although there was a large amount of variation. Workers sampled in early summer had lower flight capacities than workers sampled later in the season. Flight capacity decreased as workers aged. However, in the field, workers probably often die before this decrease becomes significant. During each flight test, workers performed several continuous flight phases of variable length that were separated by rest phases. Based on the length of those continuous flight phases and certain key assumptions, we estimated that V. velutina colony foraging radius is at least 700 m (half that in early summer); however, some workers are able to forage much farther. While these laboratory findings remain to be confirmed by field studies, our results can nonetheless help inform V. velutina biology and control efforts.

Authors:   Daniel Sauvard; Vanessa Imbault; Éric Darrouzet
Journal:   PLoS ONE
Volume:   13
edition:   6
Year:   2018
Pages:   e0198597
DOI:   10.1371/journal.pone.0198597
Publication date:   08-Jun-2018
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