UK warned to brace itself for surge of Asian hornets

uk warned to brace itself for surge of asian hornets

It follows after a record number of sightings of the invasive species last year

Authorities in the UK are urging people to report sightings of dangerous hornets ahead of an anticipated surge in invasive species this summer.

Professor Nicola Spence, Chief Plant Health Officer at the government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has called for the public to be vigilant in looking out for Asian hornets following a record number of sightings during the warmer months last year.

Asian hornets are understood to pose no greater risk than native species to people who do not have allergies to hornet venom.

Their presence can however threaten domestic honey bees and other insect pollinators.

Defra says Asian hornets have yet to find a foothold in the UK’s ecosystems, but early detection and trapping will be crucial to prevent them doing so in future.

Meanwhile, the Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) has recently warned that flooding and increased temperatures in recent years have upped the risk of invasive species making their way to the country.

uk warned to brace itself for surge of asian hornets

The risk of fatal harm to humans from Asian hornets is very low, but the invasive species represents a series danger to others in the UK’s ecosystems (Picture: Science Photo Library)

Growing nuisances already taking hold in the UK include Japanese Knotweed, which can cause structural damage to buildings, and Giant Hogweed, which exudes a sap that can burn human skin.

Others invasive species include the Red Imported Fire Ant, Chinese Mitten Crab and Chinese Mystery Snail.

Richard Benwell, chief executive at WCL, said: ‘Invasive species are already one of the biggest threats to the UK environment, from smothering waterways to outcompeting native species.

‘They also cause billions of pounds in damage a year to homes and businesses, and even pose risks to human health.’

Defra has launched a new platform, the Asian Hornet Watch App, which will empower the public to learn how to identify and document sightings of the invasive bug.

The department has also said that the National Bee Unit will remain on call throughout the warmer months to respond quickly and effectively to sightings in high-risk areas.

A Defra spokesperson said: ‘Invasive species threaten our native biodiversity and cost the economy billions every year, which is why we support the Invasive Species Inspectorate in carrying out their role to protect the nation’s biosecurity.

‘Through our Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy, we remain committed to going even further to detect, protect and eradicate the threats they pose, while increasing co-ordination and co-operation with the public, land managers and businesses to deliver this.’

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