Devon Wildlife Trust is worried that a spate of recent news stories about the threats to native nature by the invasive Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is resulting in the persecution of our home-grown hornets.
Asian hornets are devastating to honey bees, with the invasive insects raiding and destroying colonies. There is now growing fear among the UK’s beekeepers who are worried that the presence of Asian hornets threatens the future of the honey bee.
Confirmed reports of Asian hornet nests in North Devon in 2017 and in Cornwall in September have fuelled these concerns.
However, the charity Devon Wildlife Trust believes that fears over the arrival of the Asian hornet is now leading to the misguided persecution of another separate species, the native European hornet (vespa crabro).
The Trust’s Steve Hussey said:
“We’ve had several people telling us via social media that they think they have an Asian hornet nest on their property and asking can they destroy it? Other people have told us that they have already gone ahead and destroyed nests, suspecting them of belonging to Asian hornets. Unfortunately, where we’ve been able to do further investigation all the cases have proved to be European hornets and not the invasive species.”
“This is really unfortunate. European hornets are a beautiful and vital part of our environment. They also help us by helping to keep in check many insect species that gardeners consider to be pests.”
“European hornets are also struggling and their persecution is one of the factors behind this recent decline. Other countries are now urgently acting to conserve their remaining hornets; in Germany, for example, since 1987 it has been illegal to destroy a hornet nest. We need to look after our native population too.”
Devon Wildlife Trust recommends that people be aware of the threat of Asian hornets and they should immediately follow official guidelines on suspected cases. This means not destroying the nest and instead carefully photographing the insect without disturbing the nest and submitting an on-line sighting report to the GB Non-native Species Secretariat (NNSS).
Steve Hussey said:
“Telling a native European hornet apart from an Asian hornet isn’t always easy. Our native hornets are slightly bigger, while Asian hornets tend to be smaller and of a darker colour, not yellow, especially on their thorax (middle section) and abdomens (tail section).”
“However, it is easy to be confused, so our advice is always not to destroy a nest, but instead to report suspected sightings of Asian hornets to the NNSS.”
“It’s now easy to make a report via their website. There is even an App that you can download for Apple and Android phones. The alternative is to risk doing harm to an already struggling part of our native British wildlife.”