Friday 30 September 2016

Swarms of deadly Asian hornets could make a beeline towards Ireland

Published 22/04/2015 | 15:56

This photo shows an Asian hornet (Vespa Velutina) (L) and an European hornet (Vespa Crabro),
This photo shows an Asian hornet (Vespa Velutina) (L) and an European hornet (Vespa Crabro),

Swarms of deadly hornets that are becoming very prominent in France could survive in Ireland and the UK, experts have warned.

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Asian hornets, which have caused the death of six people in France, are spreading rapidly throughout mainland Europe and there are fears the creatures could survive in Ireland’s climate should a queen wasp arrive here.

Although the Asian hornet’s sting can be fatal to humans who are allergic, the creature is a particular threat to honeybees.

“The Asian hornet can kill up to 40 honey bees per minute which is 2,400 every hour and so they are a huge threat to any honey bee colony,” said Philip McCabe President of the Apimondia European Commission.

“The Asian hornet’s sting can be fatal, but only to people who are allergic, much like those who go into anaphylactic shock following a bee sting,” he said.

“There is always a possibility that the Asian hornet could arrive here. A queen wasp would probably have to accidentally travel in a suitcase or shipment, which has been known to happen. It’s very unlikely, but it could happen,” he said.

Although the Asian hornet has yet to be spotted in Britain, the UK’s National Bee Unit is implementing possible response strategies in case the predator does make its way to the Britain.

Typically, queens build nests in April and rapidly lay eggs until the colony’s population reaches 6,000. In July, the hornets begin to hunt honey bees, killing them and slicing them up to feed their larvae, which respond to proteins.

The hornets were first sighted in France in 2004, and are believed to have travelled in pottery from China where they originate. Since then, their presence has been growing in Spain and Belgium also.

The creatures are able to defend themselves by swarming around their enemies, and in recent years a man died in France’s Loire Valley after he disturbed a nest.

Although the Asian hornet has yet to be spotted in Ireland, the European Hornet is also a threat to Irish bee colonies.

“It’s been a few years since I spotted a hornet in Ireland,” Phillip McCabe said.

“But they do affect our honeybees.”

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