British Bees Face a Deadly Invasion
The number of sightings of Asian hornets, an invasive species that can wipe out bee colonies, has spiked this year, raising concerns among British beekeepers.
A sharp increase in the number of an invasive species of hornets in Britain is raising concerns that they could threaten native bee populations.
There have been 22 sightings of the so-called Asian hornet, or Vespa velutina, this year, more than in the past six years combined, according to British officials. The number of sightings, confirmed when specimens have been analyzed in a laboratory, is up from two last year, two in 2021 and one in 2020, according to British government statistics. The hornet, which is native to parts of Asia, was first detected in Britain in 2016, and its activity peaks in August and September.
It is distinct from the worlds largest hornet, Vespa mandarinia, which has been referred to as the Asian giant hornet or murder hornet, and was found in the Pacific Northwest of the United States in 2019.
Smaller than Britains native hornet, most Asian hornets are about an inch long and have brown thoraxes, yellow legs and black heads with orange faces. The species was first recorded in France in 2005 and is thought to have arrived in a container of pottery from China, according to the Non-Native Species Secretariat, a British organization that coordinates responses to invasive species. Since arriving in France, the population of Asian hornets has grown rapidly. As of last year, the hornets have been seen in European countries including Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy, according to the National Bee Unit, a British agency.