Beekeepers across the country are on high alert for the arrival of the predatory Asian Hornet in their area. The Asian Hornet is an invasive non-native hornet originally from Asia. It is a highly aggressive predator of native insects and poses a significant threat to honey bees and other pollinators. In 2004 it was accidentally introduced to France where it has spread rapidly and into neighbouring countries. Since 2016 a number of sightings have been recorded in the UK.
It is hoped that all the hornets detected in the UK to date have been destroyed and there are none which have survived to set up their own colonies this year – but it is a tense waiting game. There is also a high possibility it may come into the UK through imported plants, flowers, fruit, garden items, freight or in private cars. One recently identified in New Milton, Hants is thought to have come to the UK this way.
County and local Beekeeping Associations have set up Asian Hornet Action Teams (AHATs) in order to help government bodies in an effort to correctly identify the insects and find and any nests which may exist. West Sussex Beekeepers Association has AHAT teams in place with more than 50 members ready to advise the public and to go to help track the insects to find their nests, after which specialists will take action to destroy them.
Leader of West Sussex Beekeepers AHAT, Melvyn Essen, said “It is really important that the public are aware of the threat that the Asian Hornet poses to honey bees and other pollinators, to look out for them and be able to differentiate them from the European Hornet, which is larger and more yellow, and wasps which are similar to the European hornet, and do not pose a threat.
There is an excellent free Asian Hornet Watch app, which anyone can download, and it gives a clear identification guide and instructions on what to do if you think you have seen one. The public can also look on the West Sussex Beekeepers web site www.westsussexbeekeepers.org.uk which has more information on Asian Hornets and other insects with which it could be confused.”
Active nests should not be disturbed and members of the public who suspect they have found an Asian Hornet or its nest should report it, with a photo, via the app or on line at: www.nonnativespecies.org/alerts/asianhornet or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org