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Asian hornet alert as insects spotted in UK


Asian hornet Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Asian hornet Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Asian hornet Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Asian hornets, which pose a risk to honey bees, have been spotted in the UK for the first time in five months.

Beekeepers and the public are being asked to remain vigilant after the large wasps that threaten bees were identified in the Rayleigh area of Essex.

The National Bee Unit has confirmed the sighting, and monitoring is under way to detect further Asian hornets in the vicinity, the government says.

It is the first confirmed UK sighting since April, when a single Asian hornet was captured in Felixstowe, Suffolk.

The non-native Asian or yellow-legged hornet is an invasive species in Britain that may eat honeybees, according to the Natural History Museum.

“The hornets raid honeybee hives by sitting outside them and capturing workers as they go in and out,” says expert Gavin Broad.

“They chop them up and feed the thorax to their young.”

Government officials are appealing to people to look out for Asian hornets.

Nicola Spence, chief plant and bee health officer at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets.

“That’s why we are working at speed to locate and investigate any nests in the area following this confirmed sighting.

“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than other wasps or hornets, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies and other beneficial insects.

“Please continue to look out for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one, report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.”

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Experts say people should take care not to approach or disturb a nest.

“Asian hornets are not generally aggressive towards people but an exception to this is when they perceive a threat to their nest,” Defra said.

More to follow...

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