Asian hornets: UK government issues urgent warning after ‘killer’ insects spotted - locations

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Experts at Defra have issued an Asian hornet warning and asked people to ‘remain vigiliant’

An urgent warning has been issued after ‘killer’ Asian hornets have been spotted in a UK seaside town. It is thought the dangerous insects have already stung 10 people this year in the UK and a suspected sighting has now been reported in Plymouth, Devon.

Although it is not thought that Asian hornets go out of their way to attack humans, their sting has been described as feeling similar to being ‘stabbed by a red-hot needle’ and can cause severe swelling and some cases, death.

Experts at Defra have issued a warning after confirming the recent sightings. Defra’s Chief Plant and Bee Health Officer Nicola Spence said: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets. That’s why we are working at speed to locate and investigate any nests in the area following the confirmed sightings in Kent.

“While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than other wasps or hornets, they can cause damage to honey bee colonies and other beneficial insects.

“Please continue to look out for any Asian hornets and if you think you’ve spotted one, report your sighting through the Asian hornet app or online. Asian hornet nests will be smaller at this time in the year but we are still asking people to be vigilant.”

The government website states that ‘it is important to take care not to approach or disturb a nest of Asian hornets.’

Although they are not generally aggressive towards people, an exception to this is when they perceive a threat to their nest.

Asian hornets have been spotted in the Dover area in Kent Asian hornets have been spotted in the Dover area in Kent
Asian hornets have been spotted in the Dover area in Kent | Getty Images/iStockphoto

Asian Hornets - how to report sighting

If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet you should report this using the iPhone and Android app ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ or by using this online report form. Alternatively, e-mail [email protected]. Please include a photograph if you can safely obtain one.

Asian Hornets - where have they been spotted

Asian hornets have been spotted in the Dover area of Kent and Newcastle in 2023.

  • Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland – confirmed 11 April – single hornet captured 
  • Ashford, Kent – confirmed 23 May - single hornet captured 
  • Canterbury, Kent – confirmed 31 May - single hornet captured
  • Dover, Kent – confirmed 28 June – nest destroyed  
  • Dover, Kent – confirmed 04 July – single hornet captured

Defra is investigating a sighting in Plymouth, Devon on Sunday (July 23).

Can Asian Hornets kill you?

Asian hornet stings have been known to cause death in five people in France so far this year, with more victims throughout other European countries. Similar to a bee sting, if someone is allergic to the venom that the hornet secretes, a victim can go into anaphylactic shock and die within minutes of being stung without proper medical attention.

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