Asian hornets survive UK winter for first time

Asian hornets have survived the UK winter for the first time, analysis shows.

While the development is not believed to be evidence of an established population, officials are urging the public to report any sightings of the insects during the summer.

It comes as nature groups warn there could be a surge in invasive non-native species.

Last year, there were record sightings of the hornet in the UK.

Asian hornets threaten honey bees and insect pollinators - and can eat up to 50 honeybees a day - but their risk to human health is not greater than native hornets.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) said early trapping was "fundamental to eradication efforts".

The Wildlife and Countryside Link, a network representing 83 nature organisations, says recent flooding and warming temperatures have increased the risk of problem species in the UK growing and spreading.

Genetic analysis carried out by the National Bee Unit has found three Asian hornet queens were the offspring of a nest destroyed on 15 November 2023.

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Defra had already indicated the insects' survival over the winter could be a possibility ahead of the Chelsea Flower Show last month.

"National Bee Unit continues to take action to eradicate the Asian hornet in the UK, and this spring rolled out trapping in areas where there was an increased risk that Asian hornet queens may have overwintered," a spokesperson said at the time.

The genetic analysis has now confirmed overwintering for the first time.