Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Combining surveys and on-line searching volumes to analyze public awareness about invasive alien species: a case study with the invasive Asian yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina) in Italy.

Abstract

The Asian yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina) has been invading Italy since 2013, and it was subjected to management programs to counter its spread and raise awareness about its impacts. We administered a questionnaire to a sample of 358 beekeepers in Italy, asking them about their sources of information on V. velutina and their perception of its potential impacts and severity, compared to other threats to beekeeping. We also explored Internet searching volumes on Google and Wikipedia about V. velutina, to identify seasonal and long-term trends in public awareness. Workshops, journals or bulletins, the Internet and word-of-mouth with colleagues were the primary sources of information about V. velutina. Internet searches peaked during the activity period of the species and increased over time, with thousands of visits to Wikipedia each month. Beekeepers believed V. velutina to affect beekeeping by predating on honey bees (Apis mellifera), paralyzing foraging, reducing honey availability and depleting the winter cluster. Moreover, V. velutina has been deemed a severe threat to beekeeping, similar to other threats like pesticides and the varroa mite (Varroa destructor). Our findings indicate that beekeepers seem to be aware of the potential impacts of V. velutina in Italy, both within and outside of its invaded area, considering it a major threat to beekeeping. Moreover, citizens seem to have become progressively curious about the species. Information campaigns on the Internet and specialized magazines might be helpful to communicate about the impacts of the species, and the need to develop diffused surveillance networks.