“Horrifying” footage shows an Asian hornet in Kent decapitating and eating a wasp in seconds.
The invasive insect was caught in Capel-le-Ferne in Folkestone by beekeeper and pest controller Simon Spratley, who captured the moment it devoured its prey on camera.
Defra and NBU teams descended on the area after the hornet was discovered on August 6, and have been monitoring it ever since in a bid to find its nest.
Mr Spratley, from Shepway Bees, and others from Marsh Aperies have also been in Capel trying to track the insects – and they believe there could be multiple nests.
Mr Spratley filmed the moment one of the bugs caught and started eating a wasp on Saturday, August 12 while he was out tracking the hornets, which are preying on honey bees at his apiary.
The Asian hornet, which is more than double the size of the wasp, can be seen clinging to the wasp and decapitating it.
The beekeeper described the footage as “horrifying” and says it shows how much of a threat they are to other insects.
He says the area where they are tracking makes it really difficult to find the hornets and nests, adding it is like “looking for a needle in a jungle”.
“The problem is, the terrain is so unforgiving that there is no real way of pinpointing one nest. Because we think there are multiple nests, it is sending out a confusing signal,” he said.
“They normally fly in a straight line back to their nests but the problem with the area we are in is that the straight paths lead for about five metres and then we lose them in the undergrowth.
“Not all the hornets are going in the same direction so it is either a different path to each nest or there are multiple nests with hornets in different hives competing for food.”
He added he thinks Asian hornets have been in this area undetected for about a year.
“We think they have been there for a while, more than a year unnoticed,” he said.
“The area is uninhabited and only has one path in and out which is really rugged so you cannot just venture off the path to go anywhere, there are brambles everywhere. It is like looking for a needle in a jungle. We are also pretty sure there is more than one nest”
Mr Spratley and the other four people looking for the nests do not want to interfere with the work of the NBU.
“The NBU are doing a very good job but did not understand why they could not find the nest,” he said.
“I had never been down to the location but it took us this weekend just gone to appreciate why they are still here. It is on a cliff-end, it has massive trees and is full of lots of brambles.
“We are going to try to track and try to pinpoint one. Three or four of us will then go to that area at night to see if we can identify the location and help out the NBU. We are not trying to take over and will stop when we find where the nest is for the NBU to do their work and remove it safely.”
“Asian hornet nests will be smaller at this time in the year, but we are still asking people to be vigilant...”
He added: “I was initially concerned because I thought it cannot be that hard to find based on what we have done before but the environment these hornets are in is so demanding and overgrown.
“I am hugely surprised the NBU has not used the trained beekeepers in the British Bee Keeping Association to form a larger group of trained people who have their own kit to come and help with the search.
“It is in everybody’s best interest to get rid of them. I think a larger team needs to be involved.”
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.”