Killer Asian hornets that feast on up to 50 honeybees every day are likely on their way to Great Britain soon, warned experts.
These insects — scientifically known as Vespa velutina and considerably more aggressive that than their British counterparts — arrived in neighboring France 12 years earlier hidden in a shipment of Chinese pottery. They spread quickly across the continent and all the way to southern Portugal.
Invasive non-native species (INNS) cost the United Kingdom alone more than £1.7 billion ($2.37 billion) every year to control, with more than 300 of their 2,000 species invasive and considered culprit to several bird extinctions over centuries.
Asian hornets feature a wingspan of more than 7 centimeters (2.75 inches), and an almost completely dark abdomen with a number of faint yellow stripes.
Experts estimated that they are likely to cross the channel through imported potted plants, cut flowers, fruit and timber.
"Like all invasive non-native species, once established the Asian hornet would be incredibly difficult and hugely costly to tackle," says Camilla Keane, chair of the Wildlife and Countryside Link's invasive species group.
Keane warned that the problem is not going away anytime soon, as many other INNS are already wreaking havoc on the countryside while new ones arrive over time.
During the ongoing Invasive Species Week, Keane called on the UK government to work with different groups to create list of invasive alien species that are of countrywide concern, as set out in the developing European Union Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Regulation.
Honeybee populations in Europe have already experienced alarming declines, and they are not in the safe zone yet as Asian hornets eat them and other pollinators in large quantities.
The hornets hunt them up, chop them to pieces using their jaws, and feed them to larvae present in the nest.
According to Charity Plantlife, anyone who spots the Asian hornet in the UK should report it to the GB Non-Native Species Secretariat.
As for humans, the Asian hornet's sting can be greatly painful and the venom is delivered repeatedly and rapidly. The sting can be fatal, but only when the individual suffers an anaphylactic shock.
As a safety precaution, humans should keep away from their nests, which are usually up in trees but are sometimes located in sheds and garages. Unlike the common wasp, too, they rarely nest in wall cavities.
An Asian hornet is different from the common wasps, which have little to no hair, are black and bright yellow, and do not swarm. The common wasp consumes insects, food waste and sugary drinks.
Photo: T. Mizo | Flickr