Monday 26 September 2016

Invasion of the 'Killer Shrimp' and deadly Asian hornets

Published 26/04/2015 | 02:30

Asian Hornet
Asian Hornet

It sounds like something out of a horror B-movie, but scientists have warned Ireland is facing real-life invasions of 'Killer Shrimp' and deadly hornets capable of flying 40km/h, whose venom is among the most lethal in the world.

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Beekeepers are bracing themselves for the worst if the deadly Asian hornet arrives on these shores after scientists in the UK predicted their arrival this summer as a result of the unseasonably warm spring weather.

The hornets carry a highly toxic venom that can cause fatal heart attacks, multiple organ failure and anaphylactic shock in humans, and can devour tens of thousands of bees within hours.

They have already killed six people in France, who died after being swarmed and stung dozens of times, after the hornets were thought to have arrived on a consignment of pottery from China in 2005.

More than 42 people died and 1,600 more were seriously injured when swarms of the hornets attacked people in northwest China in the summer of 2013. Although there is no evidence that they have arrived here yet, scientists in Ireland and the UK fear they could easily arrive in a car or caravan en route from France this summer.

Philip McCabe, spokesman for the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Associations, told the Sunday Independent: "If they arrive here, we certainly would be worried."

The hornets are highly aggressive predators. A swarm of just 30 of them can wipe out an entire colony of 60,000 bees within three hours.

A single nest can house up to 500 hornets.

The hornets could pose a serious threat to the hives of the estimated 3,500 beekeepers in Ireland. Mr McCabe said the hornets also carry "the most deadly venom of any insect" and will swarm humans with dozens of stings.

At two inches long, with a stinger measuring around a quarter of an inch, "this yoke is in a league of its own," Mr McCabe added.

The Department of Agriculture is also taking the threat seriously. A department spokesperson said "a contingency plan" is in place in the event of the hornets arriving here, but could not provide further details at the time of going to print. Officials from the UK's Environment Department are also hosting an emergency meeting in Suffolk next month to discuss the threat. Although Asian hornets typically won't attack unless their nest is threatened, they nest in tree stumps and can be hard to spot. They can also fly at 40 km/h and cover up to 100km in a day.

Mr McCabe warned people to be vigilant and not to take any chances if they see what appears to be a large wasp. "If you see a hornet, kill it," he said.

Meanwhile, another threat is lurking on the other side of the Irish Sea. Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has warned that 'Killer Shrimp' are posing a serious threat to our freshwater lakes, rivers and canals. Although harmless to humans, the aggressive shrimp are named after their vicious, predatory behaviour, which involves killing and maiming fish and insects indiscriminately without eating their prey: the crustacean version of a serial killer. They also breed voraciously and can survive out of water for six days. They pose a serious threat to our freshwater habitats and will decimate food sources upon which fish feed.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, the IFI's head of research and development, said the species, which is native to eastern Europe but has infiltrated freshwater lakes in parts of England and Wales, could easily become invasive here if they are brought from the UK on a boat or even fishing tackle that has been in affected waters.

He told the Sunday Independent: "They're very prolific in the UK and they're on our door step now. Once they get established, they're next to impossible to get rid of."

Sunday Independent

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