Asian hornet UK map: The nests found in Britain as invasion of killer hornets rages on

Asian hornets - or Vespa velutina - are known to decapitate up to 50 bees a day, dragging the bodies of their prey back to their nests. This, in turn, impacts the pollination of plants and exterminators are working to track and remove the species from the UK. Now new reports state the insects are on their way to the UK.

In April 2020, a new report suggested the insects could cost the economy millions of pounds.

Experts are warning of what is ahead with research suggesting they could cost the UK £7.6million to get rid of.

Nicola Spence, Defra Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, said: "We have been anticipating the arrival of the Asian hornet for some years and have a well-established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread.

"It is important to remember they pose no greater risk to human health than a bee, though we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies.

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"That's why we are taking swift and robust action to identify and destroy any nests."

The news comes after a sighting was made in Tamworth on September 2, 2019.

To get rid of one nest of the insects, exterminators have to wear protective suits and used extendible poles to inject pesticide inside.

In 2019 alone, 65 nests were destroyed on the Channel Islands.

There have been 17 sightings of individual hornets in the UK since 2016.

Mark White, the Asian Hornet Action Team co-ordinator for the south-west, said: “The job of finding these nests can take a day or can take three weeks. We just don’t know.

“We are using a check and trace technique by setting up a prawn or bacon bait to catch one which is then marked with a dot and released.

“The plan is that hornet will return to the bait every few minutes and fly off in a particular direction.

“We keep on moving the bait and if the times get quicker and quicker then we know we are in the right area.”

How to identify Asian Hornets

According to the British Beekeepers Association, this is how to identify an Asian hornet

  • Vespa velutina queens are up to an inch in length; while workers are slightly under this (slightly smaller than the native European hornet Vespa crabro)
  • Mostly black body except for its 4th abdominal segment which is a yellow band located towards the rear
  • It has characteristic yellow legs which accounts for why it is often called the yellow-legged hornet
  • Face is orange with two brownish red compound eyes
  • Vespa velutina is a day-flying species which, unlike the European hornet, ceases activity at dusk

Are Asian Hornets dangerous to humans?

Asian hornets can give a sting similar to a bee, and will only cause kill or cause serious harm to humans if they happen to be allergic to the venom.

Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer, 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.”

You can report a sighting of an Asian hornet here.

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