A Buzzing Breakthrough in Asian Hornet Detection

Posted: 13/02/2024

Last year, Jersey experienced a surge in the numbers of the highly predative, invasive Asian Hornets.

We invited Cornwall-based Far Out Thinking Company (TFOTC) for a visit, to share with us their initiative for detecting and tracking hornets using AI.

Last year, Jersey experienced a surge in the numbers of the highly predative, invasive Asian Hornets and their nests to peak levels, mirroring a concerning trend also seen in the UK. The bees are a severe threat to our native pollinators, have a painful venomous sting, and will attack humans if threatened. 

The current method of tracking nests relies on volunteers, but Digital Jersey saw the potential for more accurate estimations via the development of technology. Following an introduction by Innovate Edge UK, we invited Cornwall-based Far Out Thinking Company (TFOTC) for a visit, to share with us their initiative for detecting and tracking hornets using AI.


TFOTC’s team took a trip to Bob Hogge’s Bee Farm, where Bob showed them the tools and techniques currently being used to trap the hornets, as well as sharing his knowledge of the
Vespa Velutina’s ecology. Bob developed the Jersey method called ‘mark-release-recapture’, which tracks hornets as they return to their nests. This is used to estimate nest density, based on the assumption that every 60 seconds of return flight time equates to 100m of distance.

Based on the above assumption, the current nest density of Jersey is not far off 3 nests per km2, even after 300 nests were destroyed in Jersey last year. Each nest eats over 11kg insects in just one season, representing significant ecological damage.

TFOTC marked the hornets found at the Bee Field, and implemented AI cameras to track the hornets visiting purpose-built tripod Hornet AI mobile bait stations. TFOTC then used Encord annotation software to classify and train image classification AI models, in order to notify the presence of the hornets via newly automated surveillance. 

This project represented Phase 1 of what could be a wider distribution of the tech as a ‘mesh’ network across the whole island. An assessment of its success is currently underway in order to determine the trial’s success. This, along with the availability of funding, will determine whether an island-wide rollout will be possible.

Digital Jersey Head of Business Development Chris Knight said:
Digital Jersey is delighted to be working with The Far Out Thinking Company (TFOTC), utilising the Jersey Sandbox to test and develop AI technology which will hopefully help Jersey and the UK in the fight against the invasive Asian Hornet.  TFOTC was introduced to DJ by their partner Innovate UK EDGE with whom we collaborate to develop mutual opportunities for our members.”

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