TWO nests belonging to the invasive Asian hornet have been destroyed after they were discovered in the Christchurch area.
Following a number of reported sightings of the predatory insect, the most recent of which was spotted in Highcliffe at the beginning of October, the nests were found and terminated to protect honey bees and other pollinators from the devastating species.
This comes after earlier confirmed sightings south west of Ashford in Kent on 9th September and the Tamworth area of Staffordshire on 2nd September 2019, where a nest was subsequently located and destroyed.
The Asian hornet is native to China but arrived in Europe in 2004 and is now widespread in parts of Spain, France, Portugal and the Channel Islands.
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, prompting a fresh alert to local beekeepers.
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.”
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.
Since 2016, there have been a total of 17 confirmed sightings of the Asian hornet in England and nine nests have been destroyed.
When a sighting is confirmed, experts from the National Bee Unit (NBU) and the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) are sent to find and destroy active nests in the area.
To report a sighting email email@example.com 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