"Buzzing Trouble: Rising Asian Hornet Sightings and the...

Lately, the growing number of honeybees in Britain has sparked worries about potential harm they might cause. Asian hornets are wreaking havoc in the European mainland, including East Sussex, Kent, Devon, and Dorset, posing a threat to Britain with colonies found alongside wasps. These invasive hornets prey on native honeybees and other insects, causing harm to biodiversity.

This warning comes as prominent scientists have released a global report on the impending dangers of invasive species. They claim that foreign invaders play a role in the extinction of 60% of animals and plants, resulting in economic expenses exceeding £300 billion ($380 billion) worldwide.

Activities like logging, fishing, and hunting are being driven to extinction. ‘Magical  marine predators‘ have been eliminated.

Extinctions: Urgent ‘rapid change’ needed to save nature.

Alien species are those creatures that are transported around the world by humans to places where they do not naturally occur, from Japanese knotweed to fungi that kill ash trees.

They are one of the five major drivers of biodiversity loss, and this issue is expected to worsen. Reportedly:

Alien invaders are responsible for the extinction of 60% of species.

Economic expenses have quadrupled every decade, reaching over $423 billion (£336 billion) in 2019.

uk bees

Solutions like border and import controls are available.

Asian hornets are a prime example of invasive species posing a persistent threat to Britain. In Folkestone, Kent, which has warm conditions favorable to Asian hornets, beekeepers are counting the costs of their predation on honeybees. They have lost 10 out of 17 hives in quick succession.

“These hornets are establishing themselves here, and they are targeting all insects, particularly honeybees – it’s their primary food source,” warns an expert.

They could either harm or complicate the process of honeybees building their colonies, which is crucial for our biodiversity, not only in Kent but also throughout England..”

When we visited their lair, we saw several Asian hornets caught that day. Just 20 miles north in Ashford, we met a team of experts from the National Bee Unit, a branch of the Animal and Plant Health Agency tasked with tackling this issue.

They were searching for and trying to eradicate hornet nests after a positive sighting.

Peter Davis, an inspector of Asian hornets, says this is the time of year when you might spot an Asian hornet in your garden.

“Please take a photo, go to the Asian Hornet app, have a look – compare it, and please report it,” he urges.

The Environment Agency says Asian hornets do not pose a greater threat to human health than other bees or hornets. Still, they can harm beneficial insects like honeybees and other pollinators.

The public is being urged to remain vigilant and report any sightings immediately.

It is essential to avoid approaching or disturbing a nest.

A spokesperson elaborated, saying, “Our objective is to ensure that we are promptly notified of any potential sightings, enabling us to respond effectively and swiftly to address the immediate threat.”

As of 2023, there have been 22 confirmed sightings of Asian hornets – more than in the past six years combined. This contrasts with only two confirmed sightings of Asian hornets, one in 2021 and one in 2020.

Growing Threats Asian hornets are native to Southeast Asia but can be transported worldwide. They are found on a large scale in European lands and can cross the English Channel.

“We are moving all kinds of plants and animals – even insects – beyond their native boundaries, places where local environments do not interact with them, hence they pose significant threats to our native animals and plants,” says Dr. Guy Broadbent, a curator at the Natural History Museum in London.

Five major direct drivers of critical biodiversity loss are:

  1. Land and sea use change.
  2. Direct exploitation of organisms.
  3. Climate change.
  4. Pollution.
  5. Invasive alien species.

A report by 86 experts in biodiversity assessed thousands of studies, looking at environmental and economic damages.

The report’s co-author, Professor Helen Roy, a Center for Ecology and Hydrology scientist, said climate change would exacerbate the situation.

“The threat from harmful invasive species in the future is a significant concern. Today, approximately 37% of invasive species reported out of 37,000 are from after 1970 – largely driven by increased global trade and human travel.”

However, she emphasized that efforts to keep Asian hornets at bay have highlighted the importance of control measures.

Stay safe, and remember to protect our environment.”

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By Areesh

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