UK bees in danger as Asian hornet sightings rise

File sightings of Asian hornets are elevating fears of catastrophic penalties for the UK’s bee populations for years to return.

The invasive hornets are wreaking havoc in mainland Europe and threaten to get a foothold within the UK, with nests present in East Sussex, Kent, Devon and Dorset.

The bugs feed on native bees and wasps, damaging biodiversity.

The warning comes as main scientists launch a worldwide report into the threats attributable to invasive species.

They are saying the alien invaders play a job in 60% of animal and plant extinctions.

And the financial prices have risen to greater than £300bn a yr the world over.

Alien species live issues transported world wide by people into locations they would not naturally be, from Japanese knotweed to the fungus that kills ash timber.

They’re one of many 5 main drivers of biodiversity loss – and the issue is anticipated to worsen.

The report discovered:

  • Invasive species are a significant risk to nature, meals safety and human well being

  • Invasive alien species contribute to 60% of worldwide extinctions

  • Financial prices are quadrupling each decade, reaching $423 billion (£336 billion) in 2019

  • There are answers, akin to border and import controls.

Asian hornet comparison

Asian hornet comparability

The Asian hornet is an instance of an alien species susceptible to gaining a everlasting foothold within the UK.

In Folkestone, Kent, one of many hotspots for Asian hornets, bee keeper Simon Spratley is counting the prices to his bees.

He says the bee-munching predators are inflicting devastation, with 10 of 17 hives misplaced in fast succession.

“These bugs are going to settle right here and they are going to predate on all bugs particularly the honey bee – that is their pure meals supply,” he warns.

“They’re going to find yourself destroying or over complicating bee preserving for everyone and decreasing the [bio] range within the Kent space and the entire wider England.”

After we visited his apiary we noticed a number of Asian hornets that had been captured that day.

Asian hornet nest, Spain

Asian hornet nest in Catalonia, Spain, the place the insect is widespread

And 20 miles north, close to Ashford, we met a crew of specialists from the Nationwide Bee Unit, a department of the Animal and Plant Well being Company tasked with coping with the issue.

They had been making an attempt to find and destroy a hornet’s nest after a constructive identification close by.

That is the time of the yr if you end up most probably to identify an Asian hornet, maybe in your backyard feeding on fruit, says bee inspector, Peter Davies.

“Please take an image, go on the Asian hornet app, take a look – evaluate it and please report it,” he says.

The Division for the Setting says the Asian hornet poses no larger danger to human well being than different wasps or hornets however could cause injury to honey bee colonies and different helpful bugs.

The general public is being urged to be further vigilant and to report any sightings instantly.

It is very important take care to not strategy or disturb a nest.

“By guaranteeing we’re alerted to potential sightings as early as potential, we will take swift and efficient motion to stamp out the risk posed by Asian hornets,” mentioned chief plant and bee well being officer Nicola Spence.

There have been 22 confirmed sightings of the Asian hornet up to now in 2023 – greater than the earlier six years mixed. This compares to only two confirmed sightings of Asian hornets final yr, two in 2021 and one in 2020.

Rising threats

Asian hornets are native to Southeast Asia however could be transported world wide in cargo. They’re widespread in mainland Europe and could be blown throughout the Channel.

“We’re transporting all types of vegetation and animals – fungi even – outdoors of their native ranges to locations the place the native setting has not advanced together with them, so that they trigger many threats to meals safety, to our native animals and vegetation,” says Dr Gavin Broad of the Pure Historical past Museum in London.

Invasive species are one of many 5 main direct drivers of biodiversity loss – and a significant danger for the UK.

The report by 86 biodiversity specialists reviewed 1000’s of research trying on the ecological and financial injury brought on.

Co-author of the report, Prof Helen Roy of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, mentioned local weather change will make the scenario even worse.

“The longer term risk from invasive alien species is a significant concern. 37% of the 37,000 alien species identified right this moment have been reported since 1970 – largely attributable to rising ranges of worldwide commerce and human journey.”

However she mentioned efforts to maintain the Asian hornet out of Britain confirmed the worth of preventative measures.

Observe Helen @hbriggs.

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