Warning as deadly Asian hornet sighted in Kent for the first time in FOUR years amid fears 2023 is on track to be the worst-ever for the invasive species with 22 nests already discovered
- A deadly Asian hornet was spotted in Folkestone, Kent for the first time in years
- Read more: Terrifying photos show huge Asian hornet nest found above urinals
This year is on track to be the worst-ever for sightings of the deadly Asian hornets across Britain – with the pesky insect being spotted for the first time in four years in Kent.
A nest with a queen hornet, ready to lay eggs, was found on Friday in Jersey on the Channel Islands.
Since then another 22 nests have been discovered by frightened islanders, prompting fears that 2023 could be the worst year for sighting’s on record.
The pesky bug made its first appearance in the UK back in 2016, and since then there have been sightings every year.
The hornets are extremely defensive over their nests and can sting in ‘mass attacks’ if they feel threatened, making them a health risk to those who suffer from anaphylaxis.
This year is on track to be the worst-ever for sightings of the deadly Asian hornets across Britain – with the pesky insect being spotted for the first time in four years in Kent
The first record of the pesky bug being in the UK was in 2016, and there have been occasional sightings every year since. Pictured: A horney captured in the UK
So far 22 nests have been discovered by frightened islanders on Jersey, prompting fears that 2023 could be the worst year on record
They also pose a large threat to native honey bees, with a group of hornets having the potential to destroy a hive of up to 30,000 bees within hours.
On Monday, as temperatures rose to the highest they have been all year, nine ‘queen’ Asian hornets were found and trapped on Jersey just hours before they could start making more nests.
One was also reported in Folkestone, Kent for the first time in almost four years as well as one hundreds of miles away in Northumberland.
The British Bee Keepers Association (BBKA) is asking people to stay vigilant after confirming an Asian hornet was spotted in the Folkestone area.
Kent beekeeper Sue Kittle said it’s an alarming development if Asian hornets are spreading.
‘This is an invasive species that can attack and eat our honey bees. It can change the whole nature of the bee hives here,’ she explained.
Ms Kittle, 55, who has been a beekeeper for over 14 years, is urging the Kent public to stay alert to the danger.
‘We need to track them down and find out if this sighting is the beginning of a nest’ said Ms Kittle.
She and believes the hornets could have come over from France.
On Monday, as temperatures rose to the highest they have been all year, nine ‘queen’ Asian hornets were found and trapped on Jersey just hours before they could start making more nests
One Asian hornet was also reported in Folkestone, Kent for the first time in almost four years as well as one hundreds of miles away in Northumberland. Pictured: An Asian hornet captured this year
The bee keeper, from Dover and District Beekeeping Association said: ‘Last year was a fantastic year for hornets in France. It is possible they hibernated over the winter and have come across the Channel.
‘It also could have been stowed away on a lorry, but we don’t know yet.’
It’s the first sighting of an Asian hornet in the county since a sighting in Ashford back in 2019.
Ms Kittle warned ‘These hornets are very defensive of their hives and can do what is called a mass attack.
‘You should not approach their nests.’
In 2022, there were two sightings in Essex and Suffolk, and in 2021, two were spotted in Berkshire and Hampshire.
A spokesperson said: ‘The British Beekeepers Association is asking everyone to look out for Asian hornets.
‘Asian hornet team members in the Kent area have been notified of the positive identification of an Asian hornet in the Folkestone area.
‘Vespa velutina is an alien species that could decimate our pollinators if it gets established in this country.
‘Honey bees are a particular favourite of the Asian hornet but all pollinators are at risk from this invasive species.
‘The public can help by downloading the Asian hornet watch app now as it has photos of Asian hornet and other insects which are commonly confused with the Asian hornet.’
The sighting in Folkestone, Kent is I the first sighting of an Asian hornet in the county since a sighting in Ashford back in 2019. Pictured: Stock image of Asian Hornet
Asian Hornets pose a large threat to native honey bees, with a group of hornets having the potential to destroy a hive of up to 30,000 bees within hours. Pictured: A native UK Bumble Bee on a Spear Thistle
The change to warmer weather, with high temperatures forecast, has sparked the queens into an egg-laying frenzy.
The grim toll of nests already found was reported today by John De Carteret, who heads the Jersey Asian Hornet action group.
Islanders are being encouraged to set more traps to lure the queens before they can build nests and start colonies with the main summer breeding season still to come.
One islander, Kaz Coutanche, said on social media: ‘It’s good you are catching them but worrying all the same.’
Swat squads on neighbouring Guernsey are using Henry Hoovers to try to take the sting out of the invasion before it builds up a head of steam this spring.
Teams use the familiar household appliances to suck nests from trees and clifftops in a bid to stop the striped terrors using Jersey, Guernsey and the other Channel islands as a stepping stone to reach mainland Britain.
The vacuum cleaners mean that volunteers, in protective suits, don’t have to get too close to the nests.
Asian hornets reached Europe after sneaking into France in 2004 in a shipment of pottery from China in 2004 and are now widespread in Spain and Portugal.
It’s a deadly threat – their stings have killed at least five people in France.
The venom is so powerful, it causes people to go into anaphylactic shock.
Victims can die within minutes of being attacked unless they receive urgent medical treatment.
In France a group of cyclists were stung up to 50 times each after disturbing an Asian hornet nest as they pedalled alongside the Loire River.
French media reported that the nest was suspended about two metres above the cyclists on a branch of a dead tree when the colony launched the attack.
It is believed that the hornets were either disturbed by the vibrations of the bikes, or another branch hit the nest as the cyclists passed the area.
One of the cyclists was left in a life-threatening condition but thankfully recovered.
The Channel Islands are their route to Britain from France and Spain.
From April to June, the battle is to stop ‘spring queening’ – to snare the queens as they emerge from winter hibernation and fly across the Channel from France.
Despite the trapos, they have turned up in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset in reent years.
The ‘Asians’ are far more dangerous than our native hornet, which wildlife experts praise for being a gardener’s friend because it preys on pests.
Matriarch Asian hornets feed their young for about 10 weeks before moving on with the newly-hatched workers to make larger secondary nests in higher trees.
These main nests can can house up to 5,000 hornets by September.
On the British mainland, teams from Devon’s bee-keeping associations have distributed posters to places like caravan parks, marinas and parish notice boards and asking people to check boats and vehicles on their return from the Continent.
A spokesman for the association said: ‘Unsuspecting travellers could be bringing hidden Asian hornets into Britain in their vehicles and luggage, thus inadvertently releasing queen hornets that will hibernate and establish new nests here in the spring.’
The hope is that by taking out the matriarchs, it will halt the yellow and black-striped terror’s invasion.
Just one Asian hornet can wreak terrible damage – it can hunt down and eat fifty honey bees every day.
Their mere presence can deter terrified bees from flying out of their hives for honey-making, costing beekeepers a fortune.
They’re native to temperate and tropical Eastern Asia and have jaws strong enough to chew through protective clothing that beekeepers wear.
The National Bee Unit, which works for Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has warned that apart from the threat to humans, they can destroy a hive of 30,000 honey bees within hours.
A spokesman said ‘If you suspect that you have found an Asian hornet, you can send a suspect sample to the NBU laboratory for examination.
‘Use a suitable sturdy container (cardboard rather than plastic) and provide as much detail as possible about the hornet and where you found it.’
But nature experts at Buglife have begged people not to kill British hornets, which are a friend of gardeners and farmers.
A spokesman said ‘Our native hornets are quite docile and if you leave them alone they are unlikely to sting. Their nests are to be avoided though.
‘We are concerned that native hornets are being mistaken for Asian hornets, and being killed unnecessarily.
‘Our native hornets and other social wasps play an important part in maintaining a healthy countryside – they pollinate some plants, and they help to control crop pests, so they are really very useful creatures.
‘But we would encourage anyone who suspects they have found an Asian hornet to please report it to Defra.’
Asian Hornets are especially a threat if a person suffers anaphylaxis – a severe allergic reaction to a sting.
Latin name vespa velutina, they nest high in trees and man made structures or sometimes closer to the ground. They hunts honey bees, other insects and also feed on fruit and flowers.
They are not easily confused with any other species and have a dark brown or black velvety body with a characteristically dark abdomen and yellow tipped legs.
In 2016 the first UK mainland sighting was confirmed in Gloucestershire, and a second was confirmed in 2017 in North Devon.
Defra says there is a high possibility of introduction through, for example, soil associated with imported plants, cut flowers, fruit, garden items such as furniture and plant pots, freight containers and untreated timber.
In the New Forest in September 2018, a tiny electrical device was used to track down a nest in Brockenhurst – well away from any houses – which was destroyed.
A single nest full of Asian hornets is capable of consuming around 11kg (24lb) of pollinating insects like honey bees in a season.
Nests are usually in tall trees but they can be found in hedges, brambles or garden shrubs, or even in earth banks, so they can easily be disturbed inadvertently, causing large numbers of hornets to emerge at once.
Anyone spotting a hornet that is not our native European hornet should report it.
The National Bee Unit will send inspectors to investigate any confirmed sighting which is supported with a photo or dead specimen of a suspected Asian hornet, and will locate and destroy the nest.
Although it would be risky to approach a nest, a lone insect does not tend to be aggressive, and while it is feeding it may be possible to get a clear photo.
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