A FRESH local sighting has been made of the invasive Asian hornet that can decimate bee hives.
The hornet was spotted in Highcliffe on Tuesday just months after another was captured in New Milton in July. Just over a year ago a nest of the insects was destroyed in Brockenhurst using a tiny electronic tracking device.
Although the creature poses no greater risk to humans than other hornets and bees, they are known to attack hives and can scare their populations into stopping honey production.
Ivor Kemp of the 180-strong East Dorset Beekeepers Association, said: “For beekeepers in that area there’s a threat particularly at this time of year because they are after protein to feed their own young.
“They will wait outside hives for returning bees and they will snap their heads off and take them back to feed their young. It has a devastating effect by laying siege to the hive. The bees stay put and get weaker and weaker.
“If there’s enough they will completely invade and take over.
“It has devastated French beekeepers, particularly in the south of France. It’s a predator of bumblebees and wasps too. There’s areas of Bordeaux where the natural insect pollinators have been wiped out.”
The Asian hornet is native to China. It arrived in Europe in 2004 and is now widespread in parts of Spain, France, Portugal and the Channel Islands.
A Defra spokesperson said: “The Asian hornet is not native to the UK. It is smaller than our native hornet and single hornets pose no greater risk to human health than other hornets or bees.
“However, they do pose a risk to honey bees and pollinating insects. This is why we are keen to stop this insect establishing in the UK, and why you should report suspected sightings.”
They added: “There have also been reports in other countries of Asian hornets becoming aggressive when their nests are disturbed.
“If you find a nest, don’t try to remove it yourself – it can be dangerous and should only be done by experts.”
Asian hornets can be identified by their dark brown or black velvety body which has a yellow or orange band on the fourth segment of the abdomen. They have yellow tipped legs and are smaller than the native European hornet. They are not active at night.
When a sighting is confirmed, experts from the National Bee Unit and the Animal and Plant Health Agency will work quickly to find and destroy any active nests in the area.
To report a sighting email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the iPhone and Android app Asian Hornet Watch. Information should include location, date and number of Asian hornets, plus a photo if possible.
To find out more visit www.nationalbeeunit.com.