Seven Murder Hornet queens caught in Channel Islands, raising fears of UK plague

Volunteers in Guernsey have captured seven so-called “murder hornet” queens as part of a “spring queening” project in which over 260 traps were set up.

The project is designed to eliminate hornet queens before they have a chance to establish nests.

The first sighting of an Asian hornet in Guernsey was in 2017. The invasive species is believed to have arrived in the Channel Islands from France.

The Asian giant hornet is the world's largest hornet. Native to the Far East, the hornets can reach up to two inches in length and they’re a major threat to honey bees – as well as human who are allergic to their stings.

While Asian honey bees have developed a defence against the hornets, the European variety that provides most of our honey and fertilises our crops does not have this adaptation and the honest can decimate a hive in a few hours.

Once a group of hornets has identified a honeybee colony, they will enter a 'slaughter phase', where they will relentlessly kill bee after bee. One single Murder Hornet can kill 50 bees in a day.

While the “murder hornets” have a fearsome name, their venom is actually less toxic than that of other hornet species. However the massive hornet’s stinger is long enough to push through clothing, even the protective gear worn by beekeepers.

They’re “all over” Guernsey, volunteer Francis Russell told the BBC.

"There is no one parish or particular hotspot,” he said. "What we do find is that, where we find one, quite often there's another one somewhere not that far away."

Alastair Christie, Asian hornet co-ordinator for the Jersey government, said the Murder Hornet invasion was now impossible to reverse, and Channel islanders should “learn to live with” the mini beasts.

There are also fears that the hornets could establish a foothold on the British mainland. This has led to calls for a "people's army" to help fight off the potential invasion.

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