CONCERNED beekeepers are urging the public to help fight the record Asian hornet invasion.
The Asian hornet is a major threat to honey bees and other pollinators and Stratford Beekeepers Association has joined others across the country in urging the public to report any sightings.
Numbers of the destructive insect rose rapidly this summer and more have been detected in the UK this year than in the previous six years combined.
British Beekeeping Association chair Diane Drinkwate, said: “At this early stage of the Asian hornet season, which goes on into the autumn, it is extremely worrying to see so many cases and so early. We must act now to stop them from getting established in this country.
“Reports from Europe and Jersey indicate that this is an exceptional year for Asian hornets with record numbers of queens and nests.
“We urge the public to join forces with beekeepers to protect our honey bees and other pollinators from this voracious predator.”
More than 1,000 beekeepers across the country are part of elite teams trained to provide emergency support to the National Bee Unit’s hornet hunters.
Hornet sightings are filtered by the NBU, part of Defra, and teams of bee inspectors deployed to track hornets back to their nests which are then destroyed.
But the help of the eagle-eyed public is essential to help spot the hornets which may be devouring insects or feeding on fallen fruit or ivy flowers.
Asian hornets are slightly smaller than native European hornets, have yellow legs, an orange face and brown body with one yellow stripe.
Just one Asian hornet can hunt down and eat 300 honey bees a day and their habit of hovering outside the hive stops the bees from collecting nectar and pollen to feed themselves.
Ruth Richardson, secretary of Stratford Beekeepers Association, said: “This hornet is an alien species, and predates all pollinators not just honey bees, so is a threat to everyone. It has become such a problem in France that in some areas there are no insects to sustain birdlife.
“Obviously beekeepers are concerned about the imminent threat and the huge number of recent incursions on the south coast, but it looks as if it may got a foothold and will creep north very quickly.”
It is important to take care not to approach or disturb a nest. Asian hornets are not generally aggressive towards people but an exception to this is when they perceive a threat to their nest.
People who suspect they have seen an Asian hornet should report it immediately using the phone app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ or the online reporting form risc.brc.ac.uk/alert.php?species=asian_hornet