Asian hornet warning issued by North East beekeepers after insect spotted in UK

Asian hornet
Asian hornet

Be on the look out for one of these giant insects buzzing about.

North East beekeepers have put out a warning after an Asian hornet was spotted in the UK.

The insect, thought to have come via France, was spotted in Cornwall - a long way away - but experts say the insects "hitch a ride" in cars, caravans and parcels, so could get here quite easily.

North East beekeepers said Asian Hornets are a massive threat to Honey Bees and the UK honey crop.

When they first were found in France up to two thirds of colonies died and the local honey crop decimated.

North East members of the Beekeepers Association have asked members of the public to keep an eye out for these hornets and report sightings to the authorities to reduce the risk of them becoming established in this area.

The Cleveland Beekeepers Association has also put together this guide to Asian hornets:

What is a hornet?

Hornets are large insects that look very like wasps, with black and yellow striped bodies. They can be quite frightening because they are so large, but our native European hornet is not aggressive, and you are most unlikely to be stung by one.

Like wasps, they are carnivorous and feed on other insects, including wasps and bees. All hornets, wasps and bumble bees don’t last the winter, their nests dying out in the autumn.

Only fertile queens survive, and they hibernate in all sorts of places, emerging in the Spring to start a new colony.

The Asian Hornet

Unfortunately, a different, foreign species, an Asian hornet, has been found in the UK.

The Asian hornet differs from the European hornet in that it has a black thorax, rather than a yellow and black striped body.

It also has yellow legs. It is slightly smaller than the European Hornet. This species is a major threat to our honey bee colonies and many other pollinators; it is termed a ‘nonnative invasive species’ which, if spotted, needs to be reported.

It is thought that the Asian hornet may have been introduced to France in plant pots from China.

It is now established in France and the Channel isles, but we do not want it to become established here!

Where in the UK have they been found?

The first sightings in the UK were in the West Country in 2016 and 2017 but fortunately the nests were destroyed before any young queens had emerged.

What risk are they and what do I do if I think I’ve seen one?

Like all wasps and hornets Asian Hornets sting but are not aggressive and usually only sting if disturbed. Most stings are easily managed at home but if you have any widespread reaction, feel unwell or have breathing problems you should seek appropriate medical advice.

There are excellent pictures of the hornet and similar insects on line such as https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/nonnativespecies/downloadDocument.cfm?id=646.

If you suspect an Asian Hornet please use tour phone to photograph it, without putting yourself at any risk and contact alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk