Warning issued as Asian hornets set for UK as expert says 'be vigilant'

The UK's Chief Plant Health Officer has warned beekeepers over Asian hornets - which dwarf the bees and wasps you usually see. Nicola Spence is urging the public and beekeepers to keep an eye out for Asian hornets and to report any sightings of the invasive species.

Asian hornets are smaller than native hornets and pose no greater risk to human health than native wasps and hornets. While they don't impact humans, the pests do pose a huge risk to honey bees and other pollinators.

Asian hornets are smaller than European hornets and have darker abdomens. They have yellow tips on their legs, orange faces and an orange stripe at the end of their bodies.

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European hornets have brown tips on their legs, yellow antennae and a largely yellow abdomen. Asian hornets pose no greater risk to human health than native wasps and hornets.

In rare cases, a sting from the pest may cause death due to an anaphylactic reaction.

If you spot an Asian hornet nest, it's best not to disturb it. They are not normally aggressive towards people but if they perceive a threat to their nest, they might swoop down and sting.

Last year saw a record number of Asian hornet sightings in the UK. The Animal and Plant Health Agency's National Bee Unit went to the locations of all the credible sightings, locating and destroying 72 nests in 56 locations.

The majority of the nests were spotted in Kent but there have also been sightings in East Sussex, London, Surrey, Hampshire and Yorkshire.

The National Bee Unit is on high alert, ready to respond to sightings of the hornets and prepared to take action to eradicate the pest in the UK.

This spring, the National Bee Unit has initiated trapping in areas where there's a heightened risk that Asian hornet queens may have overwintered.

Traps have been strategically placed in locations across Kent, East Sussex, Devon and North Yorkshire.

Ms 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."