The UK’s chief plant health officer Prof. Nicola Spence has urged beekeepers and the public to be “increasingly vigilant” to the presence of Asian hornets.

The UK saw a record number of Asian Hornets in 2023 with the Animal and Plant Health Agency’s National Bee Unit located and destroyed 72 nests in 56 locations.

Asian hornets are distinctive and can be identified by their very dark body, wide orange stripe on the fourth abdomen section and yellow leg ends.

The Asian hornet is smaller than the native hornet and poses no greater risk to human health than our native wasps and hornets. However, they do pose a risk to honey bees and insect pollinators, according to Spence.

The National Bee Unit (NBU) aims to eradicate the Asian hornet in the UK, and this spring it rolled out trapping in areas where there was an “increased risk” that Asian hornet queens may have overwintered.

“By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, the public can help us take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets,” Prof. Spence said.

Early trapping is a key part of the NBU surveillance for this invasive species and fundamental to its eradication efforts.

The traps, which have the means to allow non-target invertebrates to escape, have been set at locations across Kent, East Sussex, Devon and North Yorkshire.

The public are urged not to approach a hornet’s nest and report any sighting of an Asian hornet to the app, “Asian Hornet Watch”.

Identification guides, updates on the latest situation and more information are available on the website and on BeeBase.

This announcement coincides with the start of Chelsea Flower Show, where the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is hosting an exhibit highlighting the spread of Asian hornet and the risks to honey bees.