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Norfolk on red alert against violent bee-decapitating killer hornet

PUBLISHED: 15:31 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:33 13 September 2019

An asian hornet  Picture: John Feltwell

An asian hornet Picture: John Feltwell

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A violent killer hornet which decapitates and eats its prey could "decimate" Norfolk's native honey bees if it was allowed to invade the county, beekeepers have warned.

The nation is on red alert against the Asian hornet after two confirmed UK sightings this month in Staffordshire and Kent - both of which were spotted and reported by a member of the public.

And beekeepers in Norfolk have urged people to help authorities tackle the aggressive, non-native species which hunts honey bees in a gruesome fashion, decapitating them with their powerful jaws before flying the headless bodies back to their nest to feed their young.

Venetia Rist, chairman of the West Norfolk and King's Lynn Beekeepers' Association, said: "We have not got the Asian hornet in Norfolk yet, but if it came here it would be a disaster for our bees.

"A beehive is an easy target for them - they just decimate a hive once they get their eye in. They stack up like planes coming into the runway, going in one by one to attack the bees, taking their head off before taking the thorax back to the nest. It is so intimidating that the remaining bees won't come out of the hive."

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She urged people to photograph and report suspected Asian hornets, adding: "It is not being over-dramatic. We need to be vigilant, because our bees are in enough trouble from pesticides and loss of habitats, without this coming in. We need to try to keep it out.

"It is possible the one spotted in Ashford [in Kent] could have been blown over the Channel, but they could easily come in on imported fruit and vegetables too."

Since 2016, there have been a total of 16 confirmed sightings of the Asian hornet in England and seven nests have been destroyed.

Anne Rowberry is the Asian hornet coordinator for the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) which is currently holding its second Asian Hornet Week, from September 9 to 15

She said: "We are asking everyone to be vigilant in looking out for this alien species, the Asian hornet. It could decimate our pollinators, including our honey bees, it is important to have everyone actively looking for it. It's not just a beekeeping problem."

The risk of an active Asian hornet nest being found in the UK is higher during the summer and autumn as the leaves fall from the trees. If a nest is found, it should only be removed by experts as it can be dangerous.

- Photos and details of possible sightings should be sent to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk. For more information on identifying Asian hornets, see the Non-Native Species Secretariat website.

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