In Segur le Chateau we like to eat local where possible and grow our own food. As well as foraging in the woods, many of Segur’s residents keep immaculate gardens and vegetable patches. One of those gardens is kept by a good friend of mine, an American national, the Comtesse de la TOUR.
Occupying a gorgeous medieval tower, which was formerly (555 years ago) the appellate court of the region, the Comtesse keeps a serious raspberry patch. However, our usual casual grazing of her raspberry patch has been interrupted this year. There is an invader in Segur. The frelon Asiatic (Asian hornet) has arrived.
These nasty creatures entered France as stowaways in a boat load of pottery that came from China in 2004. After entering France through the Port of Bordeaux, the frelon have been migrating east to neighbouring regions, following rivers and watercourses. This summer, the frelon landed in Segur le Chateau.
As it happens, the frelon have good taste in food. Like us, they love raspberries. They spend their days hovering around the bushes and frightening people. Our local tree surgeon was bitten by one and described the experience as similar to being shot with a nail gun. Ouch!
Keen to avoid such experiences, the Comtesse has derived a cunning system to “catch, kill, boil and dispose” of these bio-pests. Gone are the summer dresses and flip flops, now the Comtesse wears a makeshift bee keeper’s outfit, kept secure with clothing pegs to visit her raspberries.
I visited her recently, to document the measures the Comtesse takes to control the frelon.
The Comtesse sets the wasp traps among the raspberry bushes. During the heat of the day, the frelon fly around them, and eventually in through an opening in the bottom. They can't fly downward, so they cannot leave the trap.
The Comtesse visits the raspberries in the early hours of the morning, before the frelon are active, to empty the traps. The frelon don't die in the traps, so the Comtesse drops the entire trap in a bucket of boiling water to ensure they are dead. Only once the frelon are dead, can the trap be safely opened (as above).
The frelon are then disposed of into the stormwater drain.
The frelon are the large hornets with the yellow stripes and yellow feet.
Et voila! Perfect, sweet, raspberries. The reward after the long process of disturbing the hornets nest!