Friday, June 21, 2024

Chief Plant Health Officer urges increased Asian hornet vigilance

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The UK’s Chief Plant Health Officer Professor Nicola Spence is today (Monday 20 May) urging UK beekeepers and the public to be increasingly vigilant to the presence of Asian hornet and report any sightings as we move into the peak summer season.

The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than our native wasps and hornets. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees and insect pollinators.

Asian hornets are distinctive and can be identified by their very dark body, wide orange stripe on the fourth abdomen section and yellow leg ends. Any sightings can be made via the Asian Hornet Watch App.

The warning comes after 2023 saw a record number of Asian hornets found in the UK. The Animal and Plant Health Agency’s National Bee Unit attended every credible sighting, locating and destroying 72 nests in 56 locations with the majority of nests found in Kent. The National Bee Unit continues to stand ready to respond quickly and effectively to any further possible sightings.

The National Bee Unit continues to take action to eradicate the Asian hornet in the UK, and this spring rolled out trapping in areas where there was an increased risk that Asian hornet queens may have overwintered. The traps, which have the means to allow non-target invertebrates to escape, have been set at locations across Kent, East Sussex, Devon and North Yorkshire.

Asian hornets are not yet established in the UK. Early trapping is a key part of our surveillance for this invasive species and fundamental to our eradication efforts.

Defra’s Chief Plant and Bee Health Officer Professor Nicola Spence said:

“By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, the public can help us 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 other wasps or hornets, they can damage honey bee colonies and harm other pollinators.

“Please continue to be vigilant for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one, report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.”

If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet you should report this using the iPhone and Android app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ or by using our online report form. Alternatively, e-mail alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk. Please include a photograph if you can safely obtain one.

Identification guides and more information are available and if you keep bees you should keep up to date with the latest situation on the gov.uk sightings page and on BeeBase.

It is important to take care not to approach or disturb a nest. Asian hornets are not generally aggressive towards people but an exception to this is when they perceive a threat to their nest.

This announcement coincides with the start of Chelsea Flower Show, where Defra and APHA are hosting an interactive exhibit highlighting the spread of Asian hornet and the risks to our honey bees and wild pollinators with the aim of raising awareness of the Asian hornet amongst gardeners and the industry.

Further information:

  • The Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat is a joint venture between Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government to tackle the threat of invasive species. More information can be found on their website.
  • For details on the appearance of an Asian hornet, please refer to the BeeBase guide or the non-native species identification guide.
  • Photographs of the Asian hornet are available on Defra’s Flickr account.
  • The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is not to be confused with the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) which has been found in North America.

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