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Authorities on alert as Asian hornet sighted in UK’s Cornwall

Its sighting in Gloucestershire in 2016 had sent environment officials into a tizzy, prompting a surveillance zone and arrangements to destroy it. 

world Updated: Sep 05, 2018 08:50 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Asian hornet,vespa velutina,UK
The Asian hornet kills honey bees, and is officially seen in the UK as a threat to the “native hornet”.(Defra)

A winged Asian “immigrant” stirred a hornet’s nest in 2016, literally, when officials swooped down and declared the threat had been removed, but come 2018, and another sighting of the unwelcome foreigner has raised hackles again.

India is among the geographical distribution where the Asian hornet (vespa velutina) is known to live and thrive, but its sighting in Gloucestershire in 2016 sent environment officials into a tizzy, prompting a surveillance zone and arrangements to destroy it.

The Asian hornet kills honey bees, and is officially seen in the UK as a threat to the “native hornet”.

On Tuesday, officials of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Animal and Plant (Defra) confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet in the Fowey area south of Cornwall, southwest England. The hornet is alien to the UK, and no one quite knows how it got here.

Nicola Spence of Defra said: “While the Asian hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies. That’s why we are taking swift and robust action to locate and investigate any nests in the south Cornwall areas following this confirmed sighting.

“We have a well-established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread. We remain vigilant across the country, working closely with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors.”

There are reports the Asian hornet was accidentally introduced in 2004 in France through a shipment of pottery from China. When it was sighted in Jersey, Alderney and other areas in the UK, officials believed it would not survive due to cold winters.

But it has survived, and Defra officials have turned their attention to Cornwall, where inspectors have started carrying out surveillance and monitoring in a one to two-kilometre radium around the site of the initial sighting.

First Published: Sep 05, 2018 08:50 IST