Death sting: Asian hornets potentially lethal to humans may have arrived in the UK

© Regis Duvignau
Deadly Asian hornets have reportedly been spotted in parts of southern England. The predators, which measure up to 1.5 inches in length, are thought to be responsible for the death of six people in France last year.

The hornet’s venom causes victims to go into anaphylactic shock, with the victims dying just minutes after being stung.

In the last week, Asian hornets have reportedly been seen in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Devon. Native to eastern Asia, the bugs are thought to have been inadvertently transferred to southwest France 12 years ago in a shipment of pottery from China.

The latest sighting occurred in Devon where Beverely Palfreman, 55, saw the hornet on her windowsill.

“I thought to myself, that’s huge, that must be a cockroach, but it had wings.”

A spokesperson for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) noted that none of the reported sightings in the UK have yet been confirmed, but said the alleged sightings will be investigated.

Tim Lovett, from the British Beekeepers Association, attempted to quell panic about the predators.

“They’re quite aggressive, but there’s no evidence that they’re more aggressive towards humans than other bee,” he told the BBC.

“If you happen to be hyper-sensitive it can cause massive problems, but that’s exceedingly rare.”

A spokesperson for the National Bee Unit warned the Asian Hornet does pose a threat to honeybees, however.

“The hornet preys on honeybee and disrupts the ecological role which it provides, harming commercial beekeeping activities.

“All beekeepers should remain vigilant and be on the lookout for it in their apiaries.”