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Hornet threat to East Lancashire bee populations
5:00pm Saturday 7th September 2013 in News
BEEKEEPERS in East Lancashire are on their guard after claims that a deadly species of hornet could be coming to the UK.
Communities were recently alerted to the threat of the Asian Hornet, which kills honey bees, when government officials reported September as one of the peak times for its appearance.
The venomous hornet has been known to attack honey bee colonies in areas of France and other European countries after accidently being imported from China in 2004.
Although the species has not yet been found in the UK, the Department for Environmental and Rural Affairs has urged apiarists and residents to keep a look out and report any sightings.
Beekeeper Phil Dewhurst, manager of Offshoots Permaculture Project in Burnley, which offers public courses said: “We need to be wary because should they cross the Channel they pose an extreme threat as they are serious predators of bees.
“Whilst Asiatic bees have learnt to defend themselves, our bees have not learnt the same defence mechanisms.
“Experts can exterminate them but this is not easy to do and relies upon the hornet sightings being reported for them to do so.”
However Darwen-based beekeeper Bob Fulton said that the dangers they posed had been ‘overhyped’.
He said: “There’s been a lot of overhype and panic recently and it’s all just waffle.
“I think that someone with an agenda keeps spreading this message because it’s cropped up continually in the public domain over the last few years but has never amounted to anything.
“I doubt an Asiatic hornet could survive long in England but even if it could, beekeepers nationally are now beginning to shut up their hives to protect their bees through the winter so it would be difficult for the hornet to get into a nest.”
Meanwhile Ali Wilson, spokeswoman for the national bee unit, said that whilst the species could cross the channel, no increased risk to British bees had been posed this year.
She said: “There has been no change in the risk level over the last few years.
“There was a suspected sighting a week ago in the UK but was disproven.
“There’s still the same reasonably high risk that it may arrive here but we have nothing to suggest that is imminent or that we will see ‘swarms’ of hornets as has been suggested.
“We have a response plan in place and have asked beekeepers to report possible sightings so that we can investigate.”
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