PLEASE HELP TO DELAY THE ESTABLISHMENT IN THE UK OF THE ASIAN HORNET, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE YELLOW LEGGED HORNET
The non-native Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, is a serious predator of European native insects. It is a risk to all pollinators, but particularly to honey bees, which are the primary managed pollinators of crops in the UK, and it is a significant threat to commercial and hobby beekeeping. Nature conservation organisations, including the RSPB, are concerned about the impacts of Asian hornets on pollinating species and UK biodiversity.
Native to Asia, in 2004 the Asian hornet was inadvertently introduced into France, became established and spread rapidly into neighbouring countries. It was found in the Channel Islands in 2016 and is now established on Jersey.
One nest was found in the UK in 2016 and one in 2017; both were destroyed. In 2018 two nests were found in Cornwall and two in Hampshire; single male and female hornets were found in Surrey, Hull, Lancashire, Kent, Cornwall and on the Poole/Cherbourg ferry.
An Asian hornet nest can produce many young queens in the autumn, which mate and hibernate over winter before migrating and developing new nests the following spring. Destroying nests before the new queens are produced and mated will help to slow the rate at which the Asian hornet will become established in the UK and give more time to develop effective ways to deal with it.
Hibernating or mated queens could enter the UK in shipments of goods, or in cars, caravans, camping equipment or boats.
The Asian hornet has distinctive yellow legs and is also known as the Yellow-legged Hornet; the body is mostly dark brown/black, but has a yellow/orange band towards the back end of the abdomen. Its colouring is very different from the native European hornet, Vespa crabro, which is not a serious predator of honey bees, is a beneficial insect in UK biodiversity and should not be harmed.
Information on identification and who to contact for help with identification is also available on the Asian Hornet Action Team (AHAT) website https://ahat.org.uk and on the British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) website at https://www.bbka.org.uk or you can contact your local beekeeping association.
An excellent Asian Hornet Watch app is free to download from the Apple and Android app stores or through links via the BBKA, NNSS or National Bee Unit websites and includes photos and information about Asian hornets and other insects that may be mistaken for them.
Please look out for the Asian hornet, and report any sightings so that the nests can be found and destroyed.
Do not approach a suspected nest. Asian hornets do not generally sting without provocation but may attack in a group if the nest is threatened or disturbed.
Liz Rescorla, County Secretary, Dorset Beekeepers’ Association https://www.dorsetbka.com/