Asian hornet invasion alert amid orders to report as people told how to spot them

An Asian hornet
An Asian hornet -Credit:Crown

An Asian hornet alert has been issued for the UK and there is new advice on what to do if you see one. Recent flooding and increasing temperatures have increased the risk of an invasion, says the Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL).

People are being told to be "increasingly vigilant" and report any sightings as we move into the peak summer season. The Asian hornet is smaller than a native hornet - and can be devastating.

It presents no greater risk to human health than native wasps and hornets yet can cause serious issues for honey bees and insect pollinators. The warning comes after 2023 saw a record number of Asian hornets found in the UK.

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They can be identified by their very dark body. They have a wide orange stripe on the fourth abdomen section and yellow leg ends.

Richard Benwell, WCL chief executive, said: “Invasive species are already one of the biggest threats to the UK environment, from smothering waterways to outcompeting native species. They also cause billions of pounds in damage a year to homes and businesses, and even pose risks to human health."

He continued: “Investment in a fully-funded inspectorate and a strong invasive species strategy could make a contribution to halting nature’s decline and creating a more resilient economy." Weather conditions over winter have left some trusts “struggling to keep a wave of invasive species at bay” as wet weather scuppers their efforts, said Dr Rob Collins, director of Policy and Science at The Rivers Trust.

“The Government must properly support local conservation groups nationwide who are working tirelessly to stop our waterways being smothered by nature invaders,” he said. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) said members of the public can report any sightings via the Asian Hornet Watch App.

Back in 2004, Asian hornets arrived in France. They have since spread across large areas of Europe with reports of them for the first time in the British Isles in Jersey and Alderney last summer, reports BirminghamLive.

Defra’s Chief Plant and Bee Health Officer Professor Nicola Spence said: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, the public can help us take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets. While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than other wasps or hornets, they can damage honey bee colonies and harm other pollinators.

“Please continue to be vigilant for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one, report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.” Martin Smith, Public Affairs Manager at the British Beekeepers’ Association, said: "This new app launched today by Defra is a welcome addition to current reporting methods that have enabled beekeepers and members of the public to report possible sightings.

"The key to containment is catching outbreaks as early as possible and allowing fast tracking of the insects back to their nest. We will certainly be encouraging all our 25,000 beekeepers to install the app and use it if they see what might be an Asian hornet near their hives."

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