BEE-WARE – there’s a foreign invader in our midst ready to prey on our traditional British wildlife.

A plea has gone out to local people to keep a beedy out for Asian Hornets spreading through the West Midlands and killing off our defenceless native bees.

So far the hornets – the size of a very large wasp and with a nest ten times bigger than European hornets – have been spotted and tackled in Gloucestershire and along the South Coast, but the threat to bee hives across the UK is growing.

The British Beekeepers Association say: “This alien species could decimate our pollinators, including our honey bees, it is important to have everyone actively looking for it.”

In its normal habitat in Asia bees have developed defence strategies, but British bees haven’t yet. The hornets need insect prey to feed to their larvae, and bee hives are a very reliable constant source of food.

  • How to spot them: The hornets are black, with six yellow “socks”, and a single yellow band near the tail-end of their abdomen. The nests are usually built in the crown of tall trees, not readily seen before the leaves drop in the autumn. They may be expected to be the size up to a large football, made of paper machee, like a very large wasp nest.
  • What to do: You are asked to take a photograph of the insect you suspect to be an AH, and of a nest; and report when and where you have seen it.
  • Warning: They are generally harmless, and only near their nests aggressive and defensive. Therefore, if you find a nest, leave it well alone. This time of year, you are likely to find the Hornet foraging on Ivy.

This report has been amended. Originally it said the hornets were ten times bigger, not their nests, and the European bees had defence mechanisms, not Asian ones.