Since spreading from mainland France into Jersey, the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, has become a threat to honey bees in the UK. Smaller and darker than our native European hornet, this non-native predatory insect can decimate honey bee populations.
Next week is Asian hornet week, the perfect time to keep an eye out for this pest in our gardens and wilder areas and report it if you do see one.
Many sightings thus far have been from members of the public, not beekeepers. Making the public aware of the danger is therefore crucial to protecting our honey bees from attack.
The Asian hornet preys on vulnerable or weak beehives. When attacking, a scout hornet will mark pheromones outside the hive and within a few minutes, a host of hornets will descend, picking off the fleeing bees one at a time. At the same time, a number of the hornets will gnaw through the wooden entrance, making it wide enough for them to enter. Hornets have been known to enter the hive and destroy all its inhabitants within just a couple of hours.
Hornet mandibles are powerful enough to chew through wood.
At this time of year, hornets are building up their colonies and producing males. Shortly, the new queens will emerge ready for mating. They feed on fruit and flowers. It is therefore vital at this time of year that any sightings are reported to the invasive species department.
The hornets build large nests sometimes high up in trees. In Jersey, where there have already been sightings this year, nests can also be tucked away in bramble hedges or even in holes in the ground. They are generally not aggressive to humans unless their nest is threatened. But it's always best not to approach and alert the authorities, who will send around experts to deal with it.
If you think that you have seen a hornet, try and take a photograph. Do not kill it! Traps have been set up by beekeepers across the country to track hornets back to their nests so that they can be dealt with by experts.
Key identifying features include a darker black body and yellow tips on the legs. If in doubt, take a photograph and record the location. Send this information to the Great British non-native species secretariat (NNSS): firstname.lastname@example.org.