Beekeepers are to be given financial aid to catch aggressive oriental hornets. But anyone hoping the money will be used to cull populations of the pest in urban settings is set to be disappointed.   

The scheme, announced by Agriculture Minister Anton Refalo on Wednesday, will see beekeepers given an undisclosed amount of money to install traps in beehives. 

Money will also be dedicated to a public education campaign advising people not to do things like leaving their organic waste out before garbage collection time, to discourage hornets. 

Refalo gave no details about the funding scheme and did not say when or how beekeepers would be able to apply for aid. 

Agriculture Directorate director Marco Dimech, however, made it clear that the funding was solely focused on apiaries and bee production. 

“This is a pest control issue and does not fall within our remit," Dimech said when asked what people could do if they spotted a hornet nest on a property they do not own.  

Private pest control companies charge as much as €150 to block off hornet's nests - around half the average worker's weekly salary. 

The Oriental Hornet, whose sting has been known to hospitalise people, is an omnivore by nature and can get quite aggressive when it perceives something to be a threat to its nest.

Hornet populations have been steadily increasing in the past few years, with some pest control experts attributing the growing problem to Malta's growing number of concrete buildings, which offer hornets several potential nesting spots.

A winter push

Over the past few years, the damage hornets cause apiaries has increased as the Oriental Hornet’s favourite delicacy is the bee. 

Speaking on Wednesday, Dimech said that the plan was to try and place traps in the cold winter months, catching hornets before they can feast on the honey makers.   

In the winter, the hive’s queen sleeps as it waits for spring when it can stretch its wings and begin populating its colony once again, Dimech explained.

The traps that will be placed on beehives will be species-specific and designed to not harm any other insects or disrupt the bees as they go about their business, he added. 

Registered beekeepers will be receiving details about how to apply for the aid "in the coming days", Dimech said. 

Times of Malta reported on the Agriculture Ministry's plan to help pay for hornet traps on beehives last week. 

According to a circular sent to beekeepers, the traps feature mesh caging wrapped around a wooden frame, with a cone to snare food as bait.

The cage will feature a one-way entry construction and will be topped with a grid-shaped lid with slats wide enough to allow bees to exit but not the larger-sized hornets.

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