Thus, the brothers Bize won the municipal contract for wasp control in Paris. In two vans, they zigzagged to calls to nix nests citywide, one working the Left Bank while the other worked the Right Bank, as Gregory’s wife, Léa, acted as dispatcher.
Spring. Summer. Fall. The city paid handsomely, but the caseload was gruesome. Now, the Bize brothers live and work in the suburbs just outside Le Périphérique. They destroyed some 300 Asian hornet nests in 2019. “Last year was not that bad — this year is heavy,” Matthieu Bize said. “Beaucoup d’activité!”
Wasps’ numbers are at their max in late summer, and because of a mild spring, the city was lousy with both native wasps and the Asian hornets this year. They tortured the bakers’ brioches. They danced on the fishmongers’ squid. They sailed into fifth-floor flats to drink from the juice cups of babies and even appeared on buildings as human-size graffiti.
“It’s a very good year for this hornet,” said Quentin Rome, an expert on the Asian hornet at the French National Museum of Natural History. (Vespa velutina, the wasp in question, is often confused with Vespa mandarinia, the giant “murder hornet” that made its way to Washington State, but that species is not in France.) “They are desperate to get other insects to feed” to their larvae, Mr. Rome, 40, said. “The hornets are extra-aggressive with the honeybees in the autumn.”
Hornets eat a variety of insects, but beehives are easy marks. A hornet “hawks” the hive, Mr. Perrard explained, hovering around the entrance until it catches a honeybee and carries the sweet petite away.
“It really stresses the bees,” said Lionel Potron, the founder of Apis Civi, the city’s only maison de miel (honey house) with a beekeeping school. “They know the hornets are there and won’t leave to forage. And if they don’t forage, they starve during winter.”