I hunt Asian hornets on UK's 'frontline' – crucial feature helps spot them & why killing them is WORST thing you can do | The Sun

NEXT time you sit outside to enjoy a cold pint of beer or a glass of wine, you may want to carefully examine that pest buzzing around your glass.

This week, experts put out an urgent warning over the rising threat posed by dangerous Asian hornets in the UK, whose stings have seen victims hospitalised and in rare cases even killed.

So far in mainland UK, there have been 22 sightings this year alone, which is more than the last six years combined. Last year, there were only two sightings.

In Jersey, however, at least 476 queen wasps have been found from January to July, making it the UK territory with the most reported cases.

The problem has become so dire that residents on the island – which has been dubbed 'Britain's hornet frontline' – have set up a group to keep informed of sightings.

John De Carteret, who founded the group, says they are seeing increased callouts to homes, which can lead to dangerous – if not usually fatal – consequences.

He explains: "Where people are at risk of being stung is where they’ve had them on their property. So far this year, we’ve had 13 people stung here. One gentleman had to go to the doctor and got signed off for a week.

"The individual hornets flying around aren’t stinging members of the public. It is where you’re at risk of being stung multiple times that you should be worried about.

"One of the worrying aspects we are seeing is people reporting that they’ve seen Asian hornets on their glass of beer, wine glass, or while they are sitting out eating.

"We’ve had several reports of that. If you’ve got one in your pint of beer and you drink, that’s not a recipe for good health. It will sting you in the mouth and that’s a real problem."

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A sting is extremely painful and may need hospital treatmentCredit: Facebook/Jersey Asian Hornet Group

In Japan, the insects are said to kill up to 50 people in a year. There have also been a number of fatalities reported in France.

In July, it was reported that 10 people needed medical attention after being attacked by the insects in the Channel islands.

John says: "It is highly unlikely that you’re going to die from an Asian hornet sting. People who are more at risk of that are those in our society who are anaphylactic – and they are at risk of being stung by any insect, whether it be a bee, a wasp, or an Asian hornet.

"Although I haven’t been stung personally, I’m told it’s rather painful and there’s a bit of swelling and itchiness which goes on for a couple of days."

The first Asian hornet arrived in Europe in 2004. A queen was imported into France with some pottery by mistake – since then, the insects have rapidly spread into neighbouring countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK.

They first appeared in Jersey in 2016 with their numbers multiplying at an alarming rate. This year, 171 nests have been found so far.

On why the island has seen a sharp increase in their population, John says: "The Isle of Jersey is just 14 miles away from the coast of Normandy in France. They are able to fly from there to Jersey and it’s been assessed to be around 18 minutes.

"The question of how many there are here is impossible to answer. But last year, we caught 55 Asian hornet queens. This year, we’ve found 476."

Know the signs

Asian hornets can be found anywhere and everywhere, including people's homes, which increases the chances of being stung.

"We have found nests in the ground, on the ground, in any shrub or bush or hedge in your garden, in the tallest of trees and in any species of trees," John says.

"But also, in rooms, and in garages and in houses. And especially in the spring when you have the queens wandering around, they enter people’s houses and fly around.

"In the last few days, we’ve got people coming up saying there’s 10 in my house. So a volunteer will go along but nobody is dying.

"We’ve had people here that have been stung 10 or 12 times. That’s not good news and might mean a trip to the A&E, especially if you’ve been stung in the face.”  

He also adds that it's important to be able to spot an Asian hornet in order to report the sighting to your local authority.

He says: "The ones we are talking about here are more commonly known as the yellow-legged hornets because it has yellow legs, which is one of the key identification features.

"They have an orange face and their bodies are mainly all black with an orange band at the very end of their abdomen.

Deadly mistake

In fact, John insists killing an Asian hornet is counterproductive.

He explains: "If you kill one hornet, there’s the satisfaction that you’ve killed a hornet but you’ve only killed one of thousands from a nest. It doesn't tell you anything.

"If you could use the live hornet, it will eventually show you where its nest is.

Jersey has its own special way of collecting information and killing the hornets.

"We encourage people to watch them and report the direction they go as they can lead us to their nests," says John. "At this time of year, we don't put traps out, we put what we call open bait stations.

"It's a bait with the hornets and all other insects they like to feed on. Our volunteers without any protection man these stations and we'll catch an individual hornet in a tube and mark it."

It is essential to immediately move to a safe place when you get stung as a sting can lead to an aggressive reaction by other insects.

Applying a cold compress or a pack of ice to the affected area can also help. It is also advised that people who are stung must not scratch.

If there are signs of anaphylactic shock, medical help must be sought as soon as possible as it can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of this include swelling of the throat and tongue, difficulty breathing, wheezing, cold skin, coughing, feeling faint, and turning blue or grey.

Buzz kill

Aside from the risk they pose to members of the public, John says they reduce natural pollinators, which can lead to devastating consequences on the environment.

"We should be worried because the reports highlight the fact that these Asian hornets prey on honeybees," he says.

"From our experience and those of other countries, these are part of their diet. Studies that are available online will tell you how many insects they are consuming. It’s not only flies and wasps.

"They are known to take spiders off their webs, caterpillars off plants, the whole range of flies, the whole range of wasps we have, and also the whole range of bees.

"In the UK, there are 250 species of bees in the UK. These Asian hornets will take those out of the air. They will take honeybees from their hives.

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"Already, there have been reports of a lack of pollinators – you introduce these Asian hornets, which are apex predators on top of that.

"There may be millions of natural pollinators but these insects will multiply so quickly that in years to come, they will have a drastic effect on pollination."

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