UK & World News

  • 10 May 2014, 12:08

'Killer' Asian Hornet Could Threaten Honey Bees

A new "killer" hornet may soon threaten Britain's honey bees, it has been warned.

The Asian hornet has already been spotted in France and could be transported to the UK in food pallets or may even be able to fly across the Channel.

They are smaller than British hornets, with queens growing up to three centimetres long.

Their bodies are dark brown or black with a fine yellow band and their stings are up to a quarter of an inch long.

They hunt in packs and have a taste for honey bees, often targeting adults outside the hive or eating the offspring inside.

Some experts claim they can kill up to 40 bees a day so if introduced into Britain, they could have a severe impact on the native honeybee population, which has been rapidly declining since the 1950s.

Tim Lovett from the British Beekeepers Association explained: "When bees are out foraging you'll find that the hornets will lurk around the front of the hive and try to bring down foragers as they come back to the hive.

"Having got them down on the ground they paralyse them and they will then cart them off to their own nests where they'll use them for feed for their own larvae."

Six people in France have died from anaphylactic shock after being stung by the hornets.

But Gavin Broad from the Natural History Museum says there is no need for people to worry.

He said: "In terms of their sting it's no worse than any other hornet so if you're going to suffer from anaphylactic shock it's just as likely from as Asian hornet as from a native hornet."

The public is being urged not to kill any hornets that they find and posters are now being handed out to help people identify and report any sightings.

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: "There have been no confirmed sightings of Asian hornets in the UK - they are smaller than our own native hornets and are no more dangerous.

"We are aware of the potential impacts they could have on honey bees and have plans in place to eradicate them if they are identified.

"In Great Britain we would not expect Asian hornets to establish outside southern parts of England and Wales due to colder weather."

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