A LETHAL alien visitor with a nasty sting in its tail is poised to invade our shores to wage war on our native honey bee.
Asian hornets, which have already devastated beehives across France, are winging their way ever closer and are among a number unwelcome invasive species which could arrive this side of Europe over the next few decades, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).
The bee killer is being added to a growing watch-list of unwanted visitors to Ireland that range from the black rat to the giant hogweed and which has been drawn up by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
Larger than the more familiar honey bee, the yellow-legged hornet, known in latin as Vespa Velutina, grows to between 2.5cm and 3cm and has rapidly spread across France. Recently it has reached northern Spain, Portugal and Belgium, according to the EEA. It is now "considered likely" that the bee killer "will arrive soon" in Italy and Britain – little more than a winged "hop" away from Irish shores.
It joins a long list of species that include Spanish slugs, grey squirrels and the Asian tiger mosquito that have been labelled as invasive alien species.
Irish beekeepers said they were aware of the aerial threat posed by the hornet and would be meeting Department of Agriculture officials to see what can be done to prevent the decimation of hives.
Most wild honey bees had been wiped out in recent years by the varroa parasitic mite infestation and only bees kept by beekeepers managed to survive, said Michael Gleeson of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers' Association.