The summer is nearly upon us once again and with that can come the return of Asian Hornets to our shores.
Last year several of the creatures were spotted in the United Kingdom. With a couple close to Somerset.
Defra is taking major action to tackle the insects, which pose a real threat to our native species of bees, and the Government body says it has been planning for this for three years.
But what do you need to know?
The Great British Non-native Species Website, affiliated with Defra, has issued a 'species alert'.
It said: "Vespa velutina, also known as the Asian hornet is an invasive non-native species from Asia. It arrived in France in 2004 where it spread rapidly. As a highly effective predator of insects, including honey bees and other beneficial species, it can cause significant losses to bee colonies, and potentially other native species.
"The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire in September 2016 - the first time the hornet has been discovered in the UK.
"The places it is most likely to be found are in southern parts of England or goods among which it could be accidentally imported (such as soil with imported pot plants, cut flowers, fruit and timber).
Great British Non-native Species Website Asian Hornet guide
The National Bee Unit is asking members of the public to report any sightings to them and take pictures as evidence.
What should I do if I come across an Asian Hornet?
This is the Asian Hornet that was found in Gloucestershire
- Stay away from their nests to avoid group attack, they do not generally sting without provocation.
- Don't run.They can fly faster than you can run and are intrigued by moving targets and consider running a provocation. Crouch low to the ground, stop moving and try to cover your head.
- Giant hornets are excited by bright colours so wear brown or black.
- They are drawn to perfume and aftershave.
- They're also agitated by the smell of alcohol.
- Sightings should be sent with a photograph and location details to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do not under any circumstances disturb or provoke an active hornets' nest
- The cost of eradication on private land will be met by the Animal and Plant Health Agency, who can be contacted through Defra on the Defra Rural Services Helpline on 03000 200 301. The Helpline is open Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm. There is an out of hours facility on the same number for reporting suspicion of disease in animals. You can also email email@example.com . For Wales, contact 0300 303 8268.
What does it look like?
Asian Hornet (Image: Jean Haxaire)
- Distinctive hornet, smaller than our native European Hornet species. A key feature is the almost entirely dark abdomen, except for the 4th segment which is yellow.
- Bright yellow tips to legs (native hornet dark)
- Entirely brown or black thorax (native hornet more orange)
- Workers can be up to 25mm in length.
- Makes very large nests
- Most likely to be confused with European Hornet. Less likely to be confused with queen Median Wasp.
- Main difference between European Hornet and Asian Hornet is the latter is slightly smaller, has characteristic yellow legs, a dark velvety thorax and a dark abdomen with a distinctive yellow band on the fourth segment.
- Asian Hornets are never active at night whereas European Hornets may be. Median Wasp queen is smaller, has some yellow on the thorax (unlike Asian Hornet) and lacks the characteristic feet and abdomen of Asian Hornet.
- Asian Hornet Not easily confused with any other species. Dark brown or black velvety body.
Where would I see one?
- Most likely to be seen close to bee hives - bee keepers should be alert. Active from February to November in suburban areas in the south of England and Wales, or around major ports.
- Habitat: Nests usually high in trees and man-made structures, sometimes closer to the ground; hunts honey bees, other insects and also feeds on fruit and flowers.
What else do I need to know?
- Introduced to France in 2004 where it has spread rapidly.
- High possibility of introduction through, for example, soil associated with imported plants, cut flowers, fruit, garden items (furniture, plant pots), freight containers, or in/on untreated timber.
- The possibility that it could fly across the Channel has not been ruled out.
- A highly aggressive predator of native insects. Poses a significant threat to honey bees and other pollinators.
- Poses no more risk to humans than the native European Hornet, which can kill only when a person suffers Anaphylaxis - a severe allergic reaction - to a sting.