There are fears that giant Asian hornets responsible for the deaths of six people in France are en route to Britain.
The insect’s toxic sting can cause death through anaphylactic shock and kidney failure.
The grim warning comes from in the latest House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) report on invasive non-native species.
The Asian hornet is believed to be en route to Britain
It adds there is a high likelihood the hornet will enter Britain through soil from imported plants or by flying across the Channel.
The insects are believed to have made it to France from the Far East in a consignment of Chinese pottery in late 2004.
They are thought to have thrived due to a total lack of indigenous predators, the Telegraph writes. As of 2012 the species had colonised 39 of France’s 100 departments.
HOW TO RECOGNISE AN ASIAN HORNET
- Vespa velutina queens are up to 3 cm in length; workers up to 25 mm (slightly smaller than the native European hornet Vespa crabro)
- Entirely dark brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine yellow band
- Only one band on the abdomen: 4th abdominal segment almost entirely yellow/orange
- Legs brown with yellow ends
- Head black with an orange-yellow face
- Vespa velutina is a day flying species which, unlike the European hornet, ceases activity at dusk
Distinguished by its yellow feet, the hornets grow up to 3cm in length and wield stingers in excess of 6mm in length.
The natural predators have jaws powerful enough to chew through regular protective bee suits and their venom, which they can spray, dissolves human flesh.
Hundreds of people have been stung by swarms of the giant insects
If their venom lands in the eyes, the eye tissue will melt, according to a National Geographic documentary.
The species preys on native honeybees, wasps and other pollinators, potentially devastating hives and threatening honey and crop production.
Contingency plans for the arrival of the Asian Hornet are currently being drawn up
Britain currently has an alerting system for the Asian hornets, with witnesses asked to take pictures and email them along with details of the sightings to the Non Native Species Secretariat.
The British Beekeepers Association writes: “Although it is not yet present in the UK, it is considered likely to arrive soon. The places it is most likely to be found are in southern parts of England (it may be able to cross the channel from France) or goods among which it could be accidentally imported (such as soil with imported pot plants, cut flowers, fruit and timber.)”
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