First Asian Hornet Of 2019 Spotted In The UK: Here's What You Need To Know

The hornets prey on honeybees, which can cause huge problems for beekeepers.
BOTOBOX via Getty Images / National Bee Unit / HuffPost UK

The first UK sighting of an Asian hornet has been confirmed in New Milton, Hampshire, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

It was spotted by a member of the public on 3 July and reported using the Asian Hornet Watch App. This is the first confirmed sighting on UK soil since October 2018.

Since 2016, there have been a total of 14 confirmed sightings of the Asian hornet in England and six nests have been destroyed.

The first sighting of the year follows a huge rise in the number of them spotted in Jersey. Alastair Christie – who is the island’s 2019 Asian hornet coordinator – said this year alone, there have been 80 confirmed hornet sightings in Jersey.

“The amount of queen Asian hornet sightings has dramatically increased, while the amount of nests found this year is no different to last year,” the 54-year-old told the Jersey Evening Post.

“The Asian hornet has been spotted in a few places in the UK [previously] and, given its spread through Europe, it does seem likely that it’s here to stay,” Professor Adam Hart, an entomologist from the University of Gloucestershire, told HuffPost UK. “But this is not something that should alarm the public.”

Defra

Why Are Asian Hornets A Problem?

Asian hornets prey on honeybees and this can cause a big problem for beekeepers, who have been on the lookout for them for a few years now, Professor Hart explained.

Their arrival – and spread – is a worrying prospect for dwindling bee populations and also the environment, as honeybees perform a large portion of pollination.

What Do They Look Like?

The Asian hornet is slightly smaller and darker in colour than other hornets, according to the National Bee Unit. The fourth segment of its abdomen is yellow, while the rest is a dark colour. It also has yellow tips on its legs.

National Bee Unit

Do They Sting?

The Asian hornet will sting, but only if it feels threatened. Prof Hart described the sting as “very painful” – more painful than a wasp. There’s also a risk of having a reaction to the hornet’s sting. Last year it was reported that French farmer Patrick Dupont died after suffering an anaphylactic shock caused by an Asian hornet’s sting. The insect in question was found dead in Dupont’s car and the farmer later died in hospital.

But according to Professor Hart, the chances of being stung by an Asian hornet are quite slim. “They’re not particularly aggressive,” he said. “They aren’t out looking for trouble, they’re trying to avoid it. But we do sometimes put ourselves in harm’s way: if we interfere with nests they might defend themselves, or if they come to where we are eating and we swat them away.”

How To Take Action:

Prof Hart advises people to report sightings of them, if possible. The general advice is that if you see a hornet’s nest, don’t go near it.

Instead, contact the Non Native Species Secretariat immediately using their alert email address (alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk) – this is important as the nest may need to be removed. Give as much information as possible including your name, the location of the hornet or nest, and, if possible, an image of it. “Please do not put yourself in any danger of getting stung when trying to take a photo,” advises the National Bee Unit. “Even if you are unsure of whether it is an Asian hornet, send it in anyway – it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Nicola Spence, chief plant health officer for 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.

“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, 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.”