The RYA is reminding its 112,000 members of the threats posed by invasive non-native species after a new Asian Hornet nest was located by the National Bee Unit in New Alresford, Hampshire. 

This summer has seen a number of confirmed cases of Asian Hornet in the UK, and there are concerns that hornets could be accidentally introduced on boats returning from mainland Europe. Indeed, earlier this year, an Asian hornet was found on a ferry travelling between Devon Poole and Cherbourg, so the RYA is urging boaters to be on the lookout, particularly in southern England.

What’s the risk?

Some non-native species are completely harmless but others, known as invasive species, have the ability to cause damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live.

Vespa velutina, also known as the Asian Hornet is an invasive non-native species from Asia.  It arrived via a shipment of pottery into a French port in 2004, where it spread rapidly.  As a highly effective predator of insects, including honey bees and other beneficial species, it can cause significant losses to bee colonies, and potentially other native species.

The nest located in Hampshire following a report from a member of the general public, was promptly destroyed by the APHA Wildlife Team and the National Bee Unit is continuing to search for further nests, with support from local beekeepers.

Two nests have also been destroyed in Cornwall and surveillance in this area continues. No live hornets have been seen in Hull since a single dead Asian Hornet was found in a house, despite extensive surveillance.

What does an Asian Hornet look like?

Download a free identification guide for Asian hornet, including comparisons with other species that it is commonly confused with, here.

What should I do if I come across an Asian Hornet?

  • If possible, and safe to do so, take a photograph of the insect
  • Sightings should be reported online (with a photograph if possible) at www.nonnativespecies.org/alerts/asianhornet, through the free Asian Hornet Watch recording app for Android and IOS, or by email to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk
  • Sightings should be sent with a photograph and location details to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk
  • Do not under any circumstances disturb or provoke an active hornets' nest 

What else do I need to know?

  • Introduced to France in 2004 where it has spread rapidly, including to Spain, Portugal and the Channel Islands
  • Active from February to November
  • High possibility of introduction through, for example, soil associated with imported plants, cut flowers, fruit, garden items (furniture, plant pots), freight containers, or in/on untreated timber
  • Also has the potential to hitch a lift in personal luggage and private boats
  • The possibility that it could fly across the Channel has not been ruled out
  • A highly aggressive predator of native insects. Poses a significant threat to honey bees and other pollinators
  • Poses no more risk to humans than the native European Hornet, which can kill only when a person suffers Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction) to a sting
  • ID posters are available to put up in your local yacht club upon request - please contact nnss@apha.gsi.gov.uk if you would like a laminated copy

Recent confirmed sightings: updated 19/10/18

Dungeness, Kent - confirmed 15 October 2018
Guildford, Surrey - confirmed 28 September 2018
Brockenhurst, Hampshire - confirmed 26 September 2018 - nest destroyed
New Alresford, Hampshire - confirmed 24 September 2018 - nest destroyed
Fowey, Cornwall - confirmed 20 September 2018 - nest destroyed
Hull, Yorkshire - confirmed 9 September 2018 - single dead hornet
Liskeard, Cornwall - confirmed 7 September 2018 - single dead hornet
Fowey, Cornwall - confirmed 3 September 2018 - nest destroyed
Bury, Lancashire - confirmed 13 April 2018 - single hornet sighted

Useful links

If an Asian Hornet is seen it can be reported via an online form, the Hornet Watch app; or by sending a picture to the alert email address: alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk.

The RYA works closely with the GB Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS), the Environment Agency, Natural England, Natural Resources Wales, Marine Scotland and Invasive Species Ireland to advise recreational boaters on the steps they can take to minimise the spread of invasive non-native species.

Further guidance is available on the RYA’s Planning and Environment hub.