Killer hornets set to invade Britain

Killer hornets heading for Britain

Experts are warning that an army of hornets that prey on native bees and administer an agonising sting are set to invade Britain.

The bee-eating invaders, which can grow up to 1.2 inches long, are a threat to UK wildlife - preying on wasps and other pollinators as well as honeybees - and perhaps even human health, warns the report from the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The Asian hornet - distinguishable by its dark colour and yellow feet - has already invaded France, almost wiping out its bee population and attacking humans.

It is thought the species arrived in south western France from the Far East in a shipment of Chinese pottery in late 2004.

They settled in the Aquitaine area, but spread rapidly along the waterways. In fact, their arrival in Britain was predicted by Franck Muller of the Museum of National History in Paris back in February 2011, when he told the Daily Telegraph they would cross into Britain within "three to four years".

Mr Muller said the British invasion could come even sooner if an insect was inadvertently brought over in a consignment from the Dordogne, for example.

Over the past few years, several attacks on humans have been reported. In 2009, hundreds of the insects attacked a mother out walking with her five-month old baby in the Lot-et-Garonne department, before turning on a neighbour who ran over to help. They then pursued two passers-by and two Dutch tourists on bikes.

The recent EEA report also suggests these Asian hornets will not be the only invaders. The Asian tiger mosquito, which is linked to more than 20 diseases including yellow fever and the dengue-like chikungunya fever, could also be arriving from foreign shores.

It is already prevalent in countries like Italy, and could spread further north as the climate changes.

Invading plants and animals are a huge threat to UK wildlife, with 110 out of the 395 European species designated as critically endangered and at risk of dying out because of non-native species.

Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director, said more will come as a result of increasing tourism and trade.

Climate change may also be playing a role in the spread of species, by making areas that were once uninhabitable increasingly suitable for new plants and animals.

She told the Scottish Daily Express: "In many areas, ecosystems are weakened by pollution, climate change and fragmentation.

"Alien species invasions are a growing pressure on the natural world, which are extremely difficult to reverse."

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