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Asian hornet spotted in Dungeness - first sighting in Kent

By Sean Axtell

An Asian hornet sighting has been confirmed in Kent, prompting an investigation into the whereabouts of the predatory insects’ nests.

The species, native to China, was spotted in Dungeness on Monday foraging on ivy and has sparked a government warning for people to be vigilant.

Asian hornets, (Vespa velutina), are no more dangerous than native species, however they do pose a danger to honey bees and other pollinating insects.

Asian Hornet caught in Romney Marsh - Owen Leyshon (4852144)
Asian Hornet caught in Romney Marsh - Owen Leyshon (4852144)

Nicola Spence, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) chief plant health officer urged people to report potential sightings.

She 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.”

It is the eighteenth confirmed UK sighting this year, eight were reported in September, with the last being in Guildford , Surrey.

The National Bee Unit is investigating the sighting and says updates will be provided.

“The National Bee Unit is investigating a confirmed sighting of the Asian hornet in Dungeness.

“The hornets have been seen foraging on Ivy.

Asian hornet stock (4852184)
Asian hornet stock (4852184)

“Please keep up your vigilance by continuing to monitor for any hornet activity, especially on flowering forage.

"Further information will become available as and when the situation develops,” a spokesman said.

A total of two Asian hornets were identified on the nature reserve on Monday and caught by the Dungeness Bird Observation, according to reports.

A significant hunter of bees, the Asian hornet has destroyed colonies since arriving in France in 2014, including the European honey bee.

In the UK work to locate and destroy nests begins immediately because if queens survive the winter they emerge to create new colonies.

Asian hornet stock (4852288)
Asian hornet stock (4852288)

Workers measure about 20 mm in length and have distinctive yellow legs, a dark velvety body, yellow or orange band on the fourth abdomen section.

Defra has urged returning holidaymakers to check their luggage before entering the UK to help minimise the risk to bees.

“There have been cases where Asian hornets have been found in bags or camping equipment of travellers returning from those countries, particularly in spring and late autumn.

“Before returning to the UK you should check your luggage, especially if it’s been kept outside during your trip.

“If you do spot an Asian hornet on your return to the UK you should report it with the dates and places you went on holiday, and ideally a photo of the insect,” a spokesman said.

If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet you should report it using the ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app.

Alternatively email alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk.

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