‘Bee killer’ hornet arrives on British shores

An Asian hornet found in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire

An Asian hornet found in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire

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An invasive hornet which hunts bees has reached Britain and is feared to be breeding successfully

Two Asian hornets (Vespa velutina) have been identified on beehives in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire, confirming for the first time that it has reached Britain.

To humans, the Asian hornet, which at 2.5cm is smaller than the 3cm native species, is no more dangerous than common “yellowjacket” wasps, but it is a voracious bee-killer, and could have a devastating effect on hives.

Favourite prey Matt Shardlow, chief executive of the charity Buglife, said the discovery of both hornets close to a favourite prey species meant it was likely that they were hunting to feed young in a nest. Had there been just the one hornet it would have been easier to suggest it was a lone survivor of a journey in an imported plant pot. He said of the species: “Its arrival is of huge concern. Our pollinators are currently in decline from pesticide use, loss of habitat and climatic change. This voracious predator now could push some species beyond the tipping point and into extinction.”

Surveillance zone Asian hornets arrived in France in 2004 and are common across large areas of Europe, with experts on standby in the UK in recent years for the insect’s arrival, with imports such as plants or timber, or even by flying across the Channel. The species was discovered for the first time in the Channel Islands this summer.

A three-mile surveillance zone has been set up around Tetbury, with bee inspectors deployed to use ­infrared cameras and traps to locate any nests. If any are found, disposal experts are on standby to use pesticides to kill the hornets and destroy the nests.

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