An Asian hornet queen has been found in the UK for the first time, sparking fears of a summer invasion that could pose a serious threat to humans and bees alike.
A fresh warning has been issued by government officials after the venomous insects were discovered in New Milton, Hampshire. They had previously been seen on the Channel Islands, and are believed to be moving north.
Hornets pose serious threat to bee population
The hornets pose a serious threat to the already-struggling bee population in the UK, as a queen can eat up to 50 bees a day.
Experts have warned that it is essential to report any sightings of the insects in order to protect the bee population as much as possible.
Nicola Spence, Defra Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, 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.”
Report any sightings
The hornets, which are more aggressive than other bees and wasps native to the UK, are around two inches long and are identifiable by their distinctive velvety yellow and black markings.
Although it is rare, the hornets have been known to cause serious illness, and even death, when they have stung humans who had an allergic reaction.
Like other bees and wasps, they can cause anaphylactic shock. A handful of people in France are believed to have died this way since the species were accidentally introduced to Europe in 2004.