BEEKEEPERS across the south are on high alert after an Asian hornet was found in the New Forest.

It is the first to be discovered on the UK mainland this year and the first confirmed find since one was sighted at Dungeness, Kent, in October last year.

About 80 Asian hornets were spotted on Jersey in June, sparking fears of an imminent UK invasion.

The invasive predators are said to be capable of eating up to 50 honey bees a day, posing a major threat to the survival of the species.

New Forest Post:

A British Beekeepers’ Association (BBKA) spokesman said: “Asian hornets are smaller than native one and pose no greater risk to human health than other hornets or bees.

“However, they do pose a risk to honey bees and other pollinating insects. This is why we are keen to stop this insect establishing in the UK and why any suspected sightings should be reported.”

In September last year an Asian hornets’ nest was found and destroyed in Brockenhurst, which only five miles from New Milton.

Beekeeping is popular in the area. The New Forest and District Beekeepers’ Association is one of the biggest in England with about 200 members.

Asian hornets were first recorded in the UK in 2016.

New Forest Post:

Since then there have been a total of 14 confirmed sightings across England, including two in Hampshire, and six nests have been destroyed.

Nicola Spence, deputy director for plant and bee health at the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), said: “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets.

“That’s why we are working at speed to locate and investigate any nests in the New Milton area following this confirmed sighting.

“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 and other beneficial insects.”