Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Pitcher plant in France eats bee-killing Asian hornets

10 August 2015 

Bee-killing Asian hornets spreading across Europe now face a natural enemy that lures them to destruction - a carnivorous North American plant, French experts say.

The head of a botanical garden in Nantes, western France, says the pitcher plant Sarracenia devours Asian hornets - but not European hornets. Nor does it eat bees or wasps.

Romaric Perrocheau recently found a Sarracenia stem full of dead hornets.

Asian hornets are a menace to beehives.

Mr Perrocheau, quoted by AFP news agency, said Sarracenia had "invented a very selective trap" for the aggressive Asian hornets.

The hornets are apparently attracted by Sarracenia's nectar and pheromones on the plant's tubular leaves. Once the hornet crawls inside the rim at the top it easily slips and plunges into the pitcher, to be digested by the plant's juices.

The trap appears to be a European adaptation, as Asian hornets do not exist in Sarracenia's native Massachusetts, in the eastern US. The plant can be grown easily in Europe and is not considered a threat to native flora.

Mr Perrocheau and an entomologist aim to study the contents of 200 pitchers, hoping to identify the chemical secret of their attraction for Asian hornets.

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