Experts have issued a terrifying warning to Brits as killer Asian hornets become “established in the UK”.
The invasive species population is a growing concern after conservations found a record number of nests.
So far in 2023 there have been 22 confirmed sightings of the creature – compared to only two sightings a year in 2022 and 2021.
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Shockingly, nearly half of all confirmed sightings since 2016 have been so far this year, with most sightings being in the Kent area.
Prompting fears from experts that the invasive insect may have established itself there.
The government is now working to locate and destroy their nests in the hope of preventing them from surviving winter and multiplying.
Once the species becomes established, it is almost impossible to get rid of them.
The bumblebee conservation expert Dave Goulson, a professor of biology at the University of Sussex, said he feared it was likely the hornets had become established in the area.
He told the Guardian: “It is a bit too early to say for sure but the situation looks ominous, with a record nine nests found and destroyed this year so far.
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“If even one nest evades detection and reproduces it will then probably become impossible to prevent them establishing.”
Goulson said they would likely remain for good once established.
“I think it is inevitable that they will eventually establish in the UK, and once here it is hard to see how they could be eliminated.”
If the species has established itself, experts warn it could be catastrophic for native bees which the hornets dismember and feed on.
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The hornets have been known to wait outside honeybee hives to capture the bees as they enter and exit.
Asian hornets also chop up the smaller insects and feed their thoraxes to their young.
Goulson added: “The arrival of Asian hornets would provide a significant new threat to insect populations that are already much reduced due to the many other pressures they face, such as habitat loss, pesticide use and so on.”
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It is understood the Asian hornets were first recorded in France in 2004, and have since spread across Europe.
It is believed that they were accidentally transported in cargo from Asia but may have travelled on their own.
Asian hornets are smaller than native hornets and can be identified by their orange faces, yellow-tipped legs and darker abdomens.
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