Asian hornet sighted in Gloucestershire

british-beeThe Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said this week that the National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire – the first time the hornet has been discovered in the UK.

This has sparked fears for the future of our native honey bees, with ecologists warning of dire consequences for honeybees if the species is not swiftly eliminated. Asian hornets like to hang around beehive entrances and bite the bee’s head off when he emerges from the hive. Once the hornets have killed all the bees – just a handful of hornets can destroy an entire nest in a couple of hours – they go in and take the honey.

It seems that though there might be cause for worry, there is no need to panic.  Defra has been anticipating the arrival of the Asian hornet for some years and has a well-established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread.

So whilst DNA tests are underway to try to establish how the Asian hornet arrived in Britain, Defra has already began work to identify, destroy and remove any nests.

Chris Short
Chris Short

However, it is important to remember that it is only the Asian hornet that threatens our bees.

Chris Short, who is a Reader in Environmental Governance in the CCRI commented:

“Our native hornet does not pose a risk to the bee population, so the public needs to be sure of their identification if they are going to take any action. It might be best to report sightings or take a photo rather than taking action that might harm the hornet or result in a sting.”

Professor Adam Hart from the University of Gloucestershire echoed Chris’ comments, and stated:

“The Asian hornet is a threat to honeybees and beekeepers… and most of us will never encounter one. The native hornet is an important species that needs all the help we can give to protect it.  It is important not to start a panic about Asian hornets which may result in people killing native hornets, and indeed other insects, that they confuse for Asian hornets. Vigilante action against anything remotely resembling a hornet is absolutely NOT required”.

Dan Keech

CCRI’s Dan Keech keeps bees and is a member of the Somerset Beekeepers’ Association. He emphasised that there is advice on the Asian hornet on websites of several county associations, FERA and the National Bee Unit. The National Bee Unit request that any suspected Asian hornet sightings should be reported to . When emailing, you should include your name, the location of the sighting and if possible, a photograph of the hornet. They warn people not to put themselves in danger of getting stung when trying to take a photo.

In the meantime Defra say they will remain vigilant across the country, working closely with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors.

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