East Yorkshire beekeepers on watch for Asian hornets

Dr Coulson among his hives
Image caption Dr Chris Coulson said the Asian hornet could come in through a port

Beekeepers in East Yorkshire are on the lookout for sightings of an invasive hornet that kills honey bees.

Asian hornets have been found in the UK and can destroy honey bee colonies, feeding the grubs to their own young.

Dr Chris Coulson, of the Beverley Beekeepers Association, said: "These things are likely to come in near ports."

The Asian hornet, which is up to 1in (2.5cm) long, is now common across Europe.

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The invasive species was accidentally introduced to France in 2004 in a shipment of pottery from China.

It was then found near Tetbury, Gloucestershire in September 2016, the first British sighting. It has also been seen in the Channel Islands of Jersey and Alderney.

Dr Coulson said he was tasked by the National Bee Unit, on behalf of the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs to watch out for pests, among the bee population.

He said: "If the Asian hornet is established it could reduce the bee population.

"The hornet grabs hold of bees and kills them, bites their heads off and takes the body back to the young."

The Asian hornet is not to be confused with the European hornet, he added.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Asian hornets prey on pollinating insects such as honey bees and could do serious damage to colonies in the UK, which have not evolved to cope with the threat

Identifying an Asian hornet

  • Vespa velutina queens are up to 3cm (1.2in) in length; workers are up to 2.5cm (1in)
  • They have dark brown or black velvety bodies, bordered with a fine yellow band
  • They have only one band on the abdomen. The fourth abdominal segment is almost entirely yellow or orange
  • Legs brown with yellow ends
  • Head black with an orange-yellow face

Source: National Bee Unit

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