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NBU and Defra descend on Capel-le-Ferne, near Folkestone, after Asian hornet is caught

Government pest experts descended on a Kent village after an Asian hornet was captured.

There have been five confirmed sightings of the insects in the county this year – in Dover, Gravesend, Folkestone, Whitstable and Deal – with the most recent being caught in Capel-le-Ferne.

This has led to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the NBU – which is the Animal and Plant Health Agency – monitoring the area for the past few days.

Simon Spratley, a pest controller and bee keeper, caught the Asian hornet in Capel on Sunday.

But he says he first spotted one the week before.

“I have beehives in Capel and we do routine checks. We had our first official sighting on the Sunday before last,” he said.

“We reported it via the app then set up monitors on our hives.

An Asian Hornet was spotted in Capel, between Dover and Folkestone. Picture: Simon Spratley
An Asian Hornet was spotted in Capel, between Dover and Folkestone. Picture: Simon Spratley
The insect was successfully captured by beekeeper, Simon Spratley. Picture: Simon Spratley
The insect was successfully captured by beekeeper, Simon Spratley. Picture: Simon Spratley

“On Saturday, August 5 the weather changed and on Sunday I went to do my routine hive checks and noticed one hawking one of my hives.

“I happened to catch it in a container and reported it again.”

Mr Spratley said within an hour someone arrived to collect the insect for genetic testing.

Three hours later, once it had been confirmed it was an Asian hornet, a team was on-site to set up monitoring.

The teams continued the monitoring yesterday and today, Mr Spratley confirmed.

“That response was relatively quick because we had one in hand,” he said.

Teams are working to locate and investigate any sightings in Folkestone
Teams are working to locate and investigate any sightings in Folkestone

“We have been monitoring the situation for years and I think it was inevitable this was going to come.

“Asian Hornets have taken over France, Belgium, Holland, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. They have tracked the coastlines and we here near Dover would always be one of the first places to see these.

“We have a lot of movement of vehicles across the water so they can hitchhike on a truck overnight.”

He added, as a beekeeper, he is not fearful of the rising number of sightings as he feels he knows how to respond to them, but feels education is important.

“As a member of the general public who has no awareness of them, education is key,” he said.

“We need to educate people more about Asian hornets in this country as they are here.”

A warning to residents to remain vigilant was first issued in the county in April after one of the insects was seen in Folkestone.

In July, a second warning was issued after Defra spotted another in Dover.

The invasive hornet originates from South East Asia and is known to both attack and eat honey bees.

They are not generally aggressive towards people but an exception to this is when they perceive a threat to their nest.

Defra is asking anyone who thinks they have seen a nest to report via the Asian hornet watch app or online and include a picture if possible. Alternatively, people can report it by e-mailing alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk.

Defra’s chief plant and bee health officer Nicola Spence said: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets.

“That’s why we are working at speed to locate and investigate any sightings in Folkestone as Asian hornets have been confirmed in the area.

“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than other wasps or hornets, they can cause damage to honey bee colonies and other beneficial insects.

“Please continue to look out for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one, report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online.

“Asian hornet nests will be smaller at this time in the year, but we are still asking people to be vigilant.”

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