Thursday 29 September 2016

Are deadly Asian hornets that behead bees and can kill humans heading for Ireland?

Published 19/05/2016 | 18:07

An Asian hornet feasts on a honey bee
An Asian hornet feasts on a honey bee

Killer hornets that can wipe out bee colonies and have caused the death of several people may be heading for Ireland.

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Sightings of Asian hornets have been reported in the UK and are currently being investigated by the country's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Fears have now been raised that the invasive Vespa velutina, which is active between April and November, could arrive here this summer.

A small number of the vicious predators, which carry potent venom and are between 2.5cm and 3cm long, could wipe out entire bee colonies should they make their way to Ireland, according to Philip McCabe, president of the World Bee Keepers Federation. 

"The Asian hornet is a very vicious wasp - around 60 of them could destroy whole colonies if they arrived here," McCabe told independent.ie.

"It comes to the hive and identifies the larvae of bees...the queen uses this larvae to make a 'stew' for her young.

"Then she essentially goes into a killing frenzy and she simply beheads the bees."

The terrifying insects are believed to have been inadvertently imported to France over two decades ago in a shipment of pottery from China.

At least six people have reportedly died in France from anaphylactic shock after being stung by the hornets.

The reported sightings of the hornet in the UK have yet to be confirmed and McCabe thinks "it's unlikely a true Asian hornet came that far".

However, bee keepers in the UK have now been put on high alert by the National Bee Unit (NBU) and members of the public have been asked to report nest sightings.

Unlike the European hornet, the Asian hornet is a day-flying species which ceases activity at dusk.

It nests in tall trees in urban and rural areas - but also in sheds, garages, under decking or in holes in the wall or ground

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