Queen's March. It was found that the invasion of killer hornets in Europe was organized by one female
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Scientists believe that the massive spread of Asian hornets across Europe was due to the journey of one individual.Related video
It's no secret that invasive species have the unfortunate ability to quickly spread through unprepared ecosystems, wreaking havoc and death in their wake, writes Science Alert.
Asian hornets (Vespa velutina) first appeared in Europe about 20 years ago and now expand their range by more than 80 kilometers a year, preying on honeybees, hoverflies and other insects along the way. Researchers believe that Asian hornets, also called killer hornets, first appeared in Europe when one of them managed to make a march across the English Channel.
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In a new study, scientists at University College Cork conducted a genetic analysis of European killer hornets and concluded that only one of them managed to make the jump to France from China in 2004.
In the study, zoologist Eileen Dilley and her team analyzed three genes from the first recorded Asian hornet to Ireland in April 2021. After they were compared with the sequences of hornets found on the territory of continental Europe – it turned out that they were all mitochondrial genes transmitted through the female line.
The researchers did not stop there – they examined two additional genes and came to the conclusion that that the mother line of the wasp found in Dublin is the same as throughout Europe. It turns out that the entire population of Asian hornets, currently numbering in the millions, comes from one female, who made a forced march from China about 15-20 years ago.
In its usual habitat – to the south East Asia, Asian hornets attack local honey bees. However, they have already developed a sophisticated system of protection and warning – in fact, they are able to attack the hornet in response. Unfortunately, European honey bees have not yet developed such a defense mechanism, and therefore they are an easy target for attacking killer hornets.
Researchers note that imminent climate change in the future may create even more favorable conditions for successful invasions in the future. Therefore, scientists recommend monitoring this species and its further population.