Killer Asian hornets are spotted in the UK – ‘one sting can be very serious’

Bee-killing Asian hornet spotted in Britain for first time

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The garden pest, which feasts on bees and possesses a powerful sting potentially deadly to humans, was found in the shed of a ‘sentinel apiary’ beekeeper, an apiary set up to monitor for diseases and pests. Although gardeners might already be up to speed with how to get rid of wasps, news of the arrival of these more dangerous pests is concerning for both humans and native wildlife. 

Liam Tickner, garden and outdoor living category manager at online retailer OnBuy said: “We’ve seen an enormous increase in sales of insect swatters this week.

“The surge fell perfectly in line with news reports of killer Asian hornets first being spotted on the Channel Islands, and now Suffolk, with Brits responding to the news by snapping up swatters at record rates.”

Anne Rowberry, president of the British Beekeepers Association explained how to spot these pests.

She said: “The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet, with adult workers measuring from 25mm in length and queens measuring 30mm.

“Its abdomen is mostly black except for its fourth abdominal segment which is a yellow band located towards the rear.

“It has characteristic yellow legs which accounts for why it is often called the yellow legged hornet and its face is yellow/orange with two brownish red compound eyes.”

Native to south-east Asia, Asian hornets were first spotted in the UK in 2016. 

Not only do the insects pose a danger to the public, they also represent a threat to native bee populations and the wider environment. 

Anne added: “The Asian hornet is a much bigger insect than a wasp, although the same family.

“It therefore packs a lot more venom and one sting could be very serious. 

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“If stung, seek medical advice straight away, especially if you have an allergy to wasps as then it could lead to death quickly through anaphylactic reaction.”

If hornets are allowed to become established in the UK they pose a threat to honey bees through decimating their colonies, and to other smaller pollinators too.

The expert explained: “This would impact on the avian world of insect eaters, our tits and warblers would be likely to suffer.

“A serious build-up of hornets would affect all our plants reliant on pollinators.”

Asian hornets feed on nectar, so gardeners may spot them flying around plants for pollinators, flowering trees and shrubs. 

Camellias are a particular favourite, says Anne. 

At this time of year, they build their primary or first nests. 

Housing around 200 hornets, these are papery-looking and tennis ball-sized, with a bottom opening.

As the young larvae grow and pupate into worker hornets, they start building their secondary nests. 

These may be the size of footballs, often found at the top of a tall tree or in the eaves of a house.

Anne explained what to do if gardeners spot them.

She advised: “Do not approach a nest if you find one, stay at least 20 metres away.

“Just take a picture of the nest and area where you found it on your mobile and send it in using the Asian Hornet Watch app.”

Professional pest controllers deal with large swarms of Asian hornets by destroying their nests and trapping the insects with bait, but this is not something you should attempt yourself. 

Always contact a professional for advice if you spot a nest in your own garden. 

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