Warning as killer Asian hornets to reach ‘alarming’ record levels as insects hit UK shores

One hornet can eat up to 50 bees in a day (Photo: Shutterstock)One hornet can eat up to 50 bees in a day (Photo: Shutterstock)
One hornet can eat up to 50 bees in a day (Photo: Shutterstock)

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

A total of 63 queens have already been spotted on the Channel Island of Jersey this year

Swathes of killer Asian hornets are expected to arrive in the UK this year, with experts warning the numbers could reach record levels.

The number of queens spotted on the Channel Island of Jersey is already close to surpassing the record set in 2019, with 63 having already been discovered.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So far this year, a total of 38 queens have been found by members of the public and a further 25 were caught in traps around the island. As such, numbers have almost surpassed the record number recorded two years ago, when 69 killer queens were found in 2019.

Six nests have also been spotted this year, which is down from the same period in 2019.

A threat to the UK’s native bees

The insects first appeared in Jersey in late 2016 and could be devastating to the UK’s native bee population, as one hornet can eat up to 50 bees in a day.

After years of establishing themselves on Jersey and Guernsey, the battleground shifted last year to Southern England, leading to calls for a "people's army" to help fight off an impending invasion of killer hornets onto mainland Britain.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet and while it poses no greater threat to humans than a bee, it can harm honey bees.

When the hornets find a bee colony or apiary, they focus on honey bees as their prey.

The species began spreading through Europe in 2004 after arriving in the south of France inside a freight ship, and are increasingly common across the Channel.

The hornets contain a neurotoxin that can kill with a single sting, which could be lethal to someone who is allergic.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Alastair Christie, Jersey's Asian hornet coordinator, described the figures as "slightly alarming" but urged people not to panic.

He said: “We are on track to surpass 2019 numbers, but trapping in 2019 was minimal and we are also a lot better at it now.

"So with the increase in trapping and the help from the public it stands to reason that we would find more.

"I am hoping that we have caught a greater proportion of the queens this year and that the number of nests won't be as high."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Insect tracking underway

Mr Christie said the first worker hornets would be emerging in the next few weeks and a local team of volunteers will begin tracking the insects to give a “clearer picture” of how the rest of the year could unfold.

Islanders are being encouraged to check their sheds, garages and other outdoor areas for signs of any nests, and are urged to report any sightings of an Asian hornet.

The insects look similar to native European hornets, but can be identified by their darker colour.

Their bodies are dark brown or black and they feature a yellow coloured band across their lower end, a bright pale yellow belt at the waist, and yellow on the lower half of their legs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Queens can grow up to 3cm in length, while workers reach up to 2.5cm.

Members of the public can report any sightings of an Asian hornet by emailing [email protected] and attaching a photo if possible, or online via Non-native Species Secretariat.

The ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app is available to download from the Apple and Android app stores.

We want to hear from you: let us know what you think about this story and be part of the debate in our comments section below

A message from the editor:

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who's who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.