Sharp rise in Asian hornet sightings in UK causes alarm

Asian hornets have been noticed of their best numbers but within the UK, which may have a devastating impact on native bees, which they kill, dismember and eat.

There have been 39 wasps and nests seen within the nation for the reason that species was first noticed in 2016, and this 12 months there have been 16 sightings of the creature, knowledge exhibits.

It is a massive enhance since 2022, when solely two hornets have been seen, and in 2021, which additionally had two sightings.

The overwhelming majority of the sightings have been in Kent, the place there have been 12, with some additionally seen in Dorset and one hornet captured in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Asian hornets have brought on havoc in France, the place they’ve a stronghold, and have decimated honeybee populations. They sit exterior honeybee hives and seize bees as they enter and exit. They chop up the smaller bugs and feed the thoraxes to their younger.

The hornets first got here to Europe in 2004 after they have been noticed in France, and it’s thought they have been by accident transported in cargo from Asia. They quickly unfold throughout western Europe and have crossed the Channel to Britain, most likely additionally in cargo.

As soon as they set up everlasting populations they’re nearly inconceivable to cease, so the Division of Surroundings, Meals and Rural Affairs (Defra) within the UK has launched an eradication marketing campaign, destroying any nests and capturing people.

Prof Juliet Osborne, the chair in utilized ecology on the College of Exeter, stated: “This 12 months has actually seen fairly a rise within the variety of Asian hornet nests discovered within the south-east of England.

“It’s no nice shock as a result of this species is spreading quickly by Europe and may trigger actual injury to honeybee colonies as they predate on the bees on the entrance to hives. In addition they eat a variety of different bugs, so their gradual unfold throughout Europe could nicely have an effect on different wild species in addition to the managed honeybee.

“We have now developed a technique for radio-tracking the hornets in order that they are often adopted again to their nest to assist with management efforts. We’re additionally engaged on an automatic monitor, utilizing synthetic intelligence to detect and determine Asian hornets sooner or later, making it a lot simpler to observe their unfold.”

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Defra’s chief plant and bee health officer, Nicola Spence, 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 sightings in Folkestone as Asian hornets have been confirmed in the area.

“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than other wasps or hornets, they can cause damage to honeybee 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. Asian hornet nests will be smaller at this time in the year, but we are still asking people to be vigilant.”

2023 Asian hornet sightings

  • Folkestone, Kent: confirmed 11 August.

  • Folkestone, Kent: confirmed 10 August.

  • Maidstone, Kent: confirmed 7 August and nest destroyed.

  • Portland, Dorset: confirmed 7 August and nest destroyed.

  • Deal, Kent: confirmed 6 August.

  • Folkestone, Kent: confirmed 4 August and nest destroyed.

  • Portland, Dorset: confirmed 4 August and nest destroyed.

  • Whitstable, Kent: confirmed 3 August and nest destroyed.

  • Deal, Kent: confirmed 2 August.

  • Plymouth, Devon: confirmed 27 July and two nests destroyed.

  • Gravesend, Kent: confirmed 24 July and nest destroyed.

  • Shepherdswell, Kent: confirmed 5 July and nest destroyed.

  • Deal, Kent: confirmed 28 June and nest destroyed.

  • Canterbury, Kent: confirmed 31 May and single hornet captured.

  • Ashford, Kent: confirmed 23 May and single hornet captured.

  • Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland: confirmed 11 April and single hornet captured.

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