Asian Hornets invading our Shores?
Asian Hornets are often feared come summer, being an invasive species which preys on honeybees. If you see an Asian hornet or think you may have, you are encouraged to report it as the deadly insects can cause significant losses to bee colonies, other native species and potentially ecosystems. The deadly insect preys on native honeybees, and have been spotted in the UK since 2016.
However, while the hornets are deadly, this is only in relation to their negative effect on the UK’s ecosystem. In fact, a sting from an Asian hornet is no worse than other British wasps and bees. While it may hurt and throb for a few hours, the pain will eventually die down – though it is important to note that as with all venom, there is a risk of anaphylaxis which is a severe allergic reaction that can be fatal.
What Impact could this insect have on the UK?
Each summer, pest controllers are on constant watch for Asian giant hornets, which have settled in nearby countries like France and pose a huge concern for the UK economy. These hornets prey on Honey Bees, which do so much good with cross pollinating crops and plants, that if we lost them tomorrow, it would cost the farming industry about £1.8billion a year in manual pollination services.
What are the tell tale signs?
The key identifying features of Asian hornets are:
- body – generally dark in colour, black/dark brown
- rear – key feature is dark brown with a distinct yellow/mustard band
- waist – fine, bright yellow ‘belt’
- legs – brown upper part with distinct yellow lower leg, in fact it is often called the yellow-legged hornet
- head – black head with orange / yellow face
- shape – sleek, wasp / hornet-like as opposed to plump, hairy, bee-like or fly-like with large compound eyes
- size – it is slightly smaller than the native European Hornet but larger than the Common Wasp. Worker hornets measure up to 25mm, queens 33mm in length
What to do if you see one?
Unless you’re allergic, thankfully Asian Hornets are not usually dangerous to humans. The Asian Hornet is not generally aggressive, although the stings can be painful and a very small number of people might be allergic to the sting. If you see an Asian Hornet or an Asian Hornet nest, it’s best to report the sighting, and not deal with the insect(s) yourself.
You should report all sightings of concern rapidly here or through the Asian Hornet Watch app.