Foreigners entering the UK often raise hackles, but one winged variety of “immigrant” will no longer stir a hornet’s nest after officials announced on Friday that its habitat in southwest England had been successfully destroyed.
The cause for concern was the invasive Asian hornet, which was sighted for the first time in Britain in September at Tetbury in Gloucestershire. It kills honey bees, and was officially seen as a threat to the “native hornet”.
India is among the countries where the Asian hornet (vespa velutina) is known to live and thrive. It is not known how it arrived in Tetbury, but there are reports that it was accidentally introduced in France in 2004 through a shipment of pottery from China.
“An outbreak of Asian hornets has been successfully contained by bee inspectors who promptly tracked down and destroyed their nest in Gloucestershire...No further live Asian hornets have been seen since the nest was treated with pesticide and removed in early October,” the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant (Defra) said.
Nicola Spence of Defra said: “I am pleased our well-established protocol to eradicate Asian hornets has worked so effectively. We remain vigilant, however, and will continue to monitor the situation and encourage people to look out for any Asian hornet nests.”
However, Defra warned: “It is possible Asian hornets could reappear in England next year and members of the public are urged to report any suspected sightings in the spring.”
This is not the first time “winged immigrants” to the United Kingdom have caused much flutter. There has also been concern over the proliferation of Indian parrots in some areas of England, though nobody quite knows if they arrived here during the British Raj or later.
Wild and noisy, the squawking parrots have been the subject of study by several organisations and universities, including Oxford, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Zoological Society of London.
The parrots native to India have been spreading across southeast England and beyond, and are having a significant impact on the foraging habits of small garden birds such as blue tits and blackbirds.
The parrot population boom was put down to a series of mild winters, lack of natural predators, food being available from humans and the fact that there are now enough parrots for a wider range of breeding partners.
Parrots are particularly concentrated in west and southwest London and the Thames Valley area, and this has given rise to the urban legend that the birds originally escaped from a container at Heathrow airport.
However, experts say parrots have been spotted nesting in the UK since the 19th century. Even though there was a wild population in the 1960s, the numbers remained very low till the mid-1990s, when the numbers appeared to start increasing more rapidly.
There are concerns the wild parrots could become a pest to farmers or threaten other wildlife. They are known to like fruit and could pose problems for farmers if they move into fruit-growing areas.