The Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) poses a serious and very real threat to pollinators, especially honey bees. A concerted hornet attack can decimate a honey bee colony in a matter of hours! Thwarting its establishment in the United Kingdom is crucial.
As its name implies, is not a native insect, but originates from China. It is believed that it was accidentally imported into Southern France around 2004. It has spread rapidly through France and is now sweeping across Europe. Since 2016, there have been 19 confirmed sightings in the United Kingdom, including one here in Devon, and others in Cornwall, Dorset, and Somerset.
What does the Asan Hornet look like?
Unlike the Asian Hornet, our own European Hornet poses little risk to our pollinators. It is therefore important that correct identification is made.
The Asian Hornet is slightly smaller than our native European hornet. It measures 25-30mm head to tail, it has an orange face and a dark abdomen with 4th segment yellow. Its thorax is entirely dark brown or black and velvety, and the insect has bright yellow tips to its legs. And unlike our native European Hornet, it does not fly at night.
A free ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app is available to download on a smartphone to assist members of the public in identifying an Asian Hornet.
Is it a threat to the public?
Whilst the Asian Hornet is not ordinarily aggressive, the public are advised that they should not under any circumstances approach a nest. If the hornets’ nest is disturbed, they will actively and aggressively defend it.
Generally nests are found high in trees but they have also been found at ground level in garden shrubs, undergrowth, and roadside banks. Unintentional disturbance of nests has, sadly, led to a number of fatalities on the continent from adverse reactions to the hornet’s venom from multiple stings.
For both reasons of public safety and protection of our native pollinators, it is vital that the public are able to identify this insect and distinguish it from other native insects.
What can be done?
Responsibility for providing a statutory response to incursions of the Asian Hornet rests with the National Bee Unit (part of DEFRA).
Devon Beekeepers have established a network of Asian Hornet Action Teams (AHAT’s) covering the county of Devon and this approach is being replicated across the United Kingdom. These teams are continuing to respond to help stem the incursion threat from the Asian Hornet and provide an essential link between the public and the Government’s National Bee Inspectors.
Councillors can assist by ensuring the public are well informed, for example by displaying posters which are readily available from the Non Native Species Inspectorate (just search for the Asian Hornet alert poster) and providing opportunities for members of local AHAT’s to share information.
The AHAT’s are also available to assist in identification. Your nearest AHAT can be found by using the interactive map at www.bbka.org.uk/asian-hornet-action-team-map.
How to Report a Possible Sighting
If a member of the public believes they have spotted an Asian Hornet, it is important to note that no action will be taken without evidence to support that sighting. A photograph or a sample are ideal. The previous mentioned app can assist in identification and will facilitate quick and easy submission of a reported sighting.
More information can be obtained from the Non Native Species Inspectorate (nonnativespecies.org) or by contacting your local beekeeping association.
Remember If you See it, Snap it, and Send it!