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Britain could be bombed by killer Asian hornets.
The giant striped stingers – which have been mating in the Channel Islands – love hot weather and as UK temperatures hit 35C this week may migrate to the mainland.
Beekeepers have warned of a potential invasion of the insects which have killed five people in France after their powerful stings triggered anaphylactic shock.
The flying fiends – which are much bigger than Brit hornets and have distinctive yellow-tipped legs – can wolf down 50 honey bees-a-day each and have jaws strong enough to chew through beekeepers’ protective clothing.
The National Bee Unit – which works for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs or Defra – urges people who encounter them to get in touch.
One was captured in Felixstowe, Suffolk, on April 29 – the first confirmed sighting in the UK this year.
Beekeeping associations in Devon have distributed posters warning of the potential invaders to caravan parks, marinas and parish notice boards asking the public to check cars and boats in case they have unwittingly brought them back from the Continent.
A spokesman said unsuspecting travellers could be bringing hidden Asian hornets into Britain in their vehicles and luggage, thus inadvertently releasing queen hornets that will hibernate and establish new nests here.
So far this Spring 20 hornet nests have been found on Jersey and a dozen on Guernsey.
Hundreds of homes on the islands – and neighbouring Alderney and Sark – have had traps fitted to swat the swarms.
But the operation to remove them from the islands could in itself drive them north to Britain. The mini monsters arrived in Europe after sneaking into France in 2004 in a shipment of pottery from China and are now widespread in Spain and Portugal.
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Since 2016 small numbers have appeared in the UK in Devon, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Kent, Surrey, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Staffordshire and as far north as East Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Though they hate cold, rainy conditions they would thrive in the heatwave set to arrive this week.
The Asian Hornet action team on Guernsey said a woman had found a queen and 11 workers when she `moved her chiminea’ exposing a nest containing 24 eggs and 39 larvae.
Eleven queens have been caught on the island so far this year – already more than the 10 found in pre-lockdown 2019.
The Jersey Asian Hornet group has released a photo of a nest found in a back garden birdbox. "Sometimes they choose to build their nests in the prettiest places,’’ the group said.
"But this one posed a risk as the area immediately in front is used constantly by the householder. Indeed the hornets warned them off a couple of times but fortunately no stings received."
The Jersey team found a record 100 nest-making queens last year (2021) compared to 38 the year before.
Alastair Christie, 56, who heads the unit, said there had been an amazing response' to his plea for people to get traps which are checked daily.
Experts hope to catch the hornets now before the queens have time to make nests. Francis Russell, project coordinator for Guernsey's Asian hornet strategy, said: "It is a race against time to find and destroy nests before they have raised the next generation of queens.’’
He said Asian hornets were voracious predators' but a single’ one was easier to tackle than a nest of 12,000angry’ insects which could be 30ft up in a tree’.
According to the Non Native Species Secretariat it is important to report any suspected sightings’ as soon as possible to prevent’ Asian hornets establishing themselves in the UK.
"Vigilance is particularly required in southern parts of England and Wales and around major ports,’’ it adds on Defra’s website.
Experts at Buglife urged people not to kill Brit hornets – which eat harmful pests – by mistake.
"Our native hornets are quite docile and if you leave them alone they are unlikely to sting,’’ they said.
"But we would encourage anyone who suspects they have found an Asian hornet to please report it to Defra.’’
- In the News
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