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Huge insect find sparks Asian hornet fears in Kent

By William Janes

People have been urged to stay on the lookout for an invasive bee-killing species of hornet, despite experts downplaying recent sightings.

Facebook users have posted images of the winged insects with many worried they could be Asian hornets.

The bugs, which are not native to the UK, managed to get a foothold in France in 2004 and have since been blamed for several deaths.

The winged bug was found in a home in Holborough lakes
The winged bug was found in a home in Holborough lakes

They were seen in the UK for the first time in 2016.

Measuring up to three centimetres in length, the insects are slightly smaller than the indigenous European hornet but are ferocious predators and pose a serious threat to bees and other vital pollinators.

Like their home-grown counterparts, they can deliver a painful sting to humans.

One of the hornets was found in a home in Holborough Lakes, Snodland while another was discovered in Beckenham.

While, upon closer inspection, the bugs found in Kent weren't the Asian variety residents are being told to stay on the look out and report any Asian hornets they see.

The insect was later correctly identified as a European hornet
The insect was later correctly identified as a European hornet
The hornet was larger than its Asian counterpart
The hornet was larger than its Asian counterpart

Nicola Spence, chief plant health officer, for The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) 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.

"While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause 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."

To download the app search for "Asian Hornet Watch" on the Apple and Android app stores.

Fortunately, telling the difference between the two species is fairly straight-forward.

Defra images show the distinctive characteristics of the Asian hornet
Defra images show the distinctive characteristics of the Asian hornet
An easy guide to telling the difference from Defra
An easy guide to telling the difference from Defra

Asian hornets have an entirely dark brown or black velvety body with only one fine yellow band on their abdomen and a solid yellow fourth abdominal segment unlike European hornets which have an almost entirely yellow abdomen.

The Asian variety also has yellow legs while the native type have all-brown limbs.

Importantly, Asian hornets are a day flying species which stops activity at dusk.

Escaped animals, unusual finds and news from the RSPCA can all be found here.

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