An invasive insect species which dismembers and eats honeybees may have become established in southwestern England, scientists have warned.
Overall, there have been 45 Asian hornet sightings in the United Kingdom since 2016. However, biodiversity experts are concerned as 22 of them occurred this year.
Biologists at the University of Sussex in Falmer, East Sussex, called the current situation “ominous.”
Asian hornets (Vespa velutina) are indigenous to Southeast Asia but have spread across Western and Central Europe since being first spotted in southern France in 2004. Their nests can include 5,000 animals, including several queens.
Asian hornets eat not just fruit but almost any insect species, including native bees and domesticated honeybees. They also scare away pollinators from flowers. This makes them a big threat to local ecosystems and agricultural food production.
Most Asian hornet sightings in Britain occurred in Kent. However, the insects have also been spotted in the counties of Dorset, Hampshire and Devon.
Studies into whether Asian hornets have managed to settle in Britain and how many of them currently exist in the country are underway, according to several British and international news websites.