Ten people have been stung by Asian hornets after they arrived on the UK mainland. The hornets have been found on the British island of Jersey for years, and this year have already attacked 10 people.
DEFRA has now announced that the invaders have been found on the mainland, with a sighting in Kent. So far this year 476 queens have been found in Jersey – six times the figure for the whole of 2022.
It’s the sixth confirmed UK mainland sighting since April, when an Asian hornet was captured near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, reports The Mirror.
Asian hornet stings have led to the deaths of at least five people in France, with more victims in other European countries. The venom can cause people to go into anaphylactic shock. Victims can die within minutes of being attacked unless they receive urgent medical treatment.
After the sightings this week in Kent, experts are monitoring the entire south of England. John de Carteret, head of the Jersey Asian Hornet swat squad, said: “After a record day for Asian Hornet Primary and/or Secondary nests yesterday their number stays at 77.
“The number of people confirmed as stung remains at ten.” He also warned: “There’s a long way to go here, especially whilst they are effectively uncontrolled in France.”
Mr de Carteret was earlier this year involved in an Asian hornet hunt when a huge nest was found in toilets at the former Tamba Park activity centre in St Lawrence, Jersey.
A huge Asian Hornet nest that was found – above a leisure centre toilet (Image: John De Carteret / SWNS)
Swat squads on Guernsey, meanwhile, are using Henry Hoovers to try to take the sting out of the invasion. They use the familiar household appliances to suck nests from hard-to-reach trees and clifftops.
The National Bee Unit, which works for Defra, has warned that apart from the threat to humans, they can destroy a hive of 30,000 honey bees within hours. A single nest full of Asian hornets is capable of consuming around 11kg (24lb) of pollinating insects like honey bees in a season.
Just one Asian hornet can hunt down and eat fifty honey bees every day.
On the British mainland, teams from Devon’s bee-keeping associations have distributed posters to places like caravan parks, marinas and parish notice boards and asking people to check boats and vehicles on their return from the Continent.
The nest was discovered by volunteer hornet hunter Jane Osborne when she entered the toilets (Image: John De Carteret / SWNS)
Defra’s Chief Plant and Bee Health Officer Nicola Spence 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.
“That’s why we are working at speed to locate and investigate any nests in the area following the confirmed sightings in Kent. While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than other wasps or hornets, they can cause damage 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. Asian hornet nests will be smaller at this time in the year but we are still asking people to be vigilant.”
Asian Hornet nests are built by a queen hornet in sheds or outbuildings but are also frequently found inside bird boxes. The queens stay within these nests for around six weeks, where they often raise roughly 100 worker hornets.
Once the nest is large enough, the hornets will leave it and move to other areas, such as taller trees, where larger secondary nests can be built. People are being told to take care not to approach or disturb a nest but to photograph and follow any sole Asian hornets to help experts track flight paths leading them to nests which can be wiped out.
Defra says there is a high possibility of introduction through, for example, soil associated with imported plants, cut flowers, fruit, garden items such as furniture and plant pots, freight containers and untreated timber.
In France, a group of cyclists were stung up to 50 times each after disturbing an Asian hornet nest as they pedalled alongside the Loire River.
Anyone who suspects they have seen an Asian hornet should report this using the phone app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ or by using the online report form. Alternatively, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also share the information with a specialist team on 07839 197082 or by emailing email@example.com.