3 July 2019

The first Asian Hornet of 2019 on UK mainland has been found in New Milton in Hampshire close to the New Forest. The Department of Environment, Food, & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) issued a press release saying it was spotted by an eagle-eyed member of the public, is thought to be a Queen and that inspectors are now in the area looking for a nest. 

The report came in on an app called Asian Hornet Watch which sends a GPS location as well as a photo taken on a smartphone. It was the first confirmed report since October 2018. 

Last year, two Asian Hornet queens were found in locations near where this one was found between the sea and the New Forest. The full list is on the press release. 

The Bees Wasps & Ant Recording Society (BWARS) said their team verified the find. They are one of several agencies that the report is automatically sent to. 

You can see a BBKA map showing the finds in the UK which started in 2016.  

Since 2016, a total of 14 confirmed Asian hornets in England and 6 nests have been found and destroyed. 

Why are we worried? 

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is a species of hornet which is not native to the UK. It is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than other hornets or bees.

However, they do pose a risk to honey bees and pollinating insects. This is why we are keen to stop this insect establishing in the UK, and why you should report suspected sightings.

When a sighting is confirmed, experts from the National Bee Unit (NBU) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will work quickly to find and destroy any active nests in the area.

Use App to report

If you do not have the Asian Hornet Watch app on a smartphone you can send a report on email to [email protected]. However, official channels have told the BBKA that staff at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology which receives them are getting 200 possible sightings a day and struggling to process all the emails. 

The BBKA is, therefore, advising all the Asian Hornet Action Teams (AHATS) of beekeepers who will try to assist the inspectors in finding a nest that they should all use the app. 

Image: CEH

Current situation

Defra says on 3 July 2019, the first UK sighting of an Asian hornet of the year was confirmed in New Milton, Hampshire. It was spotted by a member of the public and reported via the Asian Hornet Watch App.

Since 2016, there have been a total of 14 confirmed sightings in England of the Asian hornet in England and six nests have been destroyed.

Nine of these sightings occurred in 2018; an individual hornet in Lancashire (April) and Hull, three in Cornwall, two in Hampshire, one in Surrey (all September) and one in Kent (October).

The risk of an active Asian hornet nest being found in the UK is negligible during the colder winter months, but higher during the summer.

Asian hornets have already been spotted this year in countries close to the UK (France and Jersey) and a risk remains, at all times of year, of accidentally transporting an Asian hornet when returning to the UK from abroad.

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."

How do I identify an Asian Hornet?

Here is a useful checklist  to have in case you think you are seeing an Asian Hornet: 

  • Do they have a dark brown or black, velvety body?
  • Do they have a yellow or orange band on fourth segment of abdomen? - Abdomen is the part below the "waist" of the insect 
  • Do they have yellow tipped legs? - As if they are wearing yellow socks
  • Are they smaller than the native European hornet? - Europeans can be up to 2.8 centimetres long
  • Are they active at night ? - Asian Hornets are not. 

If you find a nest, don’t try to remove it yourself – it can be dangerous and should only be done by experts.

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