Britain could be bombarded by killer Asian hornets.
Giant striped stingers – which bred in the Channel Islands – love the heat and with temperatures in the UK rising to 35C this week they could migrate to the mainland.
Beekeepers have warned of a possible insect invasion that has killed five people in France after their powerful stings caused anaphylactic shock.
Flying devils – which are much larger than British hornets and have distinctive yellow legs – can eat up to 50 bees per day and have jaws strong enough to chew on a beekeeper’s protective clothing.
The National Bee Unit — which works for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or Defra — urges people they meet to reach out.
One was arrested in Felixstowe, Suffolk on April 29, the first confirmed sighting in the UK this year.
Devon’s beekeeping associations have distributed warning posters about potential invaders at caravan parks and marinas and diocese bulletin boards asking the public to check cars and boats in case they are inadvertently turned back from the mainland.
A spokesperson said that unsuspecting travelers could bring Asian hornets hidden in their cars and luggage to Britain, thereby unintentionally releasing a hornet queen that will hibernate and establish new nests here.
So far this spring, 20 hornet nests have been found in Jersey and dozens in Guernsey.
Hundreds of homes on the islands – and near Alderney and Sark – are equipped with traps to target swarms.
But the process of removing them from the islands could in itself take them north to Britain. The little monsters arrived in Europe after infiltrating France in 2004 with a shipment of pottery from China and are now widespread in Spain and Portugal.
Since 2016 small numbers have appeared in the UK in Devon, Berkshire, Hampshire, Dorset, Kent, Surrey, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Staffordshire and far north east Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Even if they hate cold and rainy conditions, they will thrive in this week’s heat wave.
The Asian Hornet team in Guernsey said a woman found a queen and 11 workers when she “moved her chimney” and uncovered a nest containing 24 eggs and 39 larvae.
Eleven queens have been captured on the island so far this year, already more than 10 have been found in 2019 before the lockdown.
The Jersey Asian Hornet group posted a photo of a nest that was found in a bird cage in the back garden. “Sometimes they choose to build their nests in the most beautiful places,” the group said.
But this poses a danger because the immediate frontal area is constantly used by the head of the family. In fact, the hornets warned them several times but fortunately did not receive any stings.”
The Jersey team found a record 100 queens last year (2021) compared to 38 the year before.
There has been an extraordinary response to his call for people to get the traps checked daily, said Alistair Christie, 56, who heads the unit.
Experts hope to catch the wasps now, before the queens have time to make nests. “It is a race against time to find and destroy nests before the next generation of queens are raised,” said Frances Russell, Asian Hornet Strategy Project coordinator in Guernsey.
The Asian hornet was voracious predators, he said, but that dealing with one of them is easier than dealing with a nest of 12,000 angry insects that can be up to 30 feet high in a tree.
According to the Non-Indigenous Species Secretariat, it is important to report any suspicious sightings as soon as possible to prevent Asian hornets from establishing themselves in the UK.
“Surveillance is particularly needed in the southern parts of England and Wales and around the major ports,” he adds on the Defra website.
Buglife experts have urged people not to accidentally kill British hornets – which eat harmful pests.
And they said, “Our native hornets are very docile, and if you leave them alone they are less likely to sting.”
“But we would like to encourage anyone who suspects that they have found an Asian wasp, please report it to Defra.”
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