The Asian hornet is believed to have been accidentally imported into southern France from China around 2004. Since then they have spread rapidly through France and into neighbouring countries including the UK.

There have been sightings of Asian hornets in Hampshire including in New Milton Christchurch and close to Basingstoke in Alton.

The beekeepers Association is appealing to the public to keep alert for these hornets during August as the queens are currently out looking for mates.

There are many ways Asian hornets are crossing from France to the UK including coming over in containerships, being nestled away in caravans or tents or on a windy day they can just be carried over.

The Gazette spoke to Janelle Quitman the Asian hornet coordinator for the Hampshire Beekeepers Association who explained why they are so concerned about these insects.

She said: “Asian hornets can have a huge economic impact by devastating agriculture and pollinators.

"There are around 2000 Asian hornets per nest and they can destroy a whole hive of 60,000 honeybees in just one day.

Basingstoke Gazette:

"The Hornets themselves eat the sugary honey and rip off the honeybees heads and tails and eat the middle to provide protein for their babies back in the nest."

These hornets will also eat prawns, fish and any other protein they can find to feed to their babies whilst the adult hornets find sugar in fallen fruit such as blackberries and apples.

“If you are sensitive to stings Asian hornet stings are three times the strength of a wasp.

"If you are allergic to stings it can be fatal.

"In France they have had quite a few deaths from stings and they advised, even if you don’t feel unwell after you get stung, to go to an emergency room."

Basingstoke Gazette:

The sting of the Asian hornet is 6mm long and they are able to sting victims multiple times.

The venom injected from the sting is potent and contains eight different chemicals each with specific purpose these range from tissue degeneration, breathing difficulties, making the sting more painful and even attracting other hornets to the victim.

If you are stung crouch on the ground, stop moving and cover your head as they are intrigued by running targets.

Janelle advises the best thing for Hampshire residents to do if they suspect they have spotted an Asian hornet is to download the Asian hornet watch app and take a photograph.

"Don’t approach the hornet but take a photograph uploaded to the app and they will come back to within minutes to tell you what insect you have photographed and if it’s an Asian hornet they would be very grateful to know.

"If the insect you spotted was an Asian hornet the seasonal bee inspector will come out to confirm the sighting and look for the nest and destroy it.

"We are trying to educate the public to be vigilant and look for these hornets because we want the whole of horticulture and agriculture not to suffer and to delay the devisation as much as possible."

These types of hornets are very difficult to spot but they have a distinctive black velvety body and orange face yellow tipped legs and a distinctive yellowy orange stripe on their back.

Janelle has kept bees since she was seven years old and now has 10 hives in different locations.

Basingstoke Gazette:

“Bees are so imporant because they produce two thirds of every plateful you eat the only things that do not need pollinators are rice wheat and corn.

"What a dull diet we would have without bees."

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