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Asian hornet alert as sighting confirmed in the UK

Emily Brown

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| Last updated 

Asian hornet alert as sighting confirmed in the UK

Just when you think the UK has had enough chaos to last a lifetime, the return of Asian hornets proves there's still plenty more to come.

There really seems to be an unnecessary amount of animals that not only sting, but have the ability to fly around in order to find their target. I know that everything contributes to the ecosystem and the circle of life and whatnot, but do they really need to hurt?

As if wasps and the usual hornets we have zipping about weren't enough, the National Bee Unit confirmed today (28 September) that there's a new critter in town, and they could pose a serious threat to honey bees.

It's not the first time Asian hornets have been spotted in the UK. Credit: Brian Gadsby / Alamy Stock Photo
It's not the first time Asian hornets have been spotted in the UK. Credit: Brian Gadsby / Alamy Stock Photo

A statement released by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) revealed that the Bee Unit confirmed the identification of Asian hornets in the Rayleigh area of Essex, and that monitoring is now underway to 'detect further Asian hornets in the vicinity'.

DEFRA issued a warning to beekeepers and members of the public to 'remain vigilant' of the insects, which the RSPB says pose a 'significant threat to the UK’s wildlife'.

Though the insects aren't any more of a threat to humans than native bees or wasps, being stung by one still wouldn't be pleasant. Asian hornets do, however, pose more of a threat to honeybees, as they can raid their hives and eat the creatures.

According to Peter Davies, Regional Bee Inspector for Southern England, Asian hornets can fill a 'substantial part' of their diets with honeybees - which we need to pollinate plants.

Davies likened the Asian hornets' eating habits to having a 'takeaway', explaining: "Once a honey bee colony is located as a food source, the hornets visit it in increasing numbers relentlessly preying on the bees. It is much like a takeaway to them and they can decimate the numbers of bees until the colony collapses."

Asian hornets first arrived in Europe in 2004, when they were inadvertently brought to France in what is thought to have been a shipment of imported goods. The species has spread rapidly since then, prompting experts to warn of their arrival in the UK earlier this year.

Naturally, the news hasn't been met favourably by members of the public who already have enough to deal with.

Following the announcement from DEFRA, one exasperated Twitter user simply wrote: "NOT NOW, ASIAN HORNETS."

The RSPB has shared a few identifying factors to spot Asian hornets, noting they are smaller than the UK's native hornet and have an 'almost entirely dark abdomen except for the 4th segment which is yellow'.

Asian hornets also have bright yellow tips to their legs, in comparison to the dark legs of European hornets. In even better news, they're only active during the day, meaning most of us won't be able to sleep our way through their adventures.

The insects have been recorded in the UK before, though they have previously been 'swiftly eradicated' by the relevant authorities.

Featured Image Credit: Brian Gadsby / Thomas LENNE / Alamy Stock Photo

Topics: UK News, Animals

Emily Brown
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