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Wasps and Hornets. Reading from the newspapers:

Gloucestershire live http://www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk

'Several' Asian hornets caught by beekeepers since shock arrival in Tetbury

Read more at www.gloucestershirelive.co.uk

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Experts have now caught "several" Asian hornets attacking bee hives since the first confirmed British sighting, it has emerged. The massive insect was discovered in the Tetbury area earlier this month and was the first of the foreign species found in the UK. The insects pose no risk to human health but could wipe out honey bees, and Prince Charles' hives at the Highgrove Estate are within a three-mile cordon set up by Defra.

Yesterday the British Beekeepers Association sent out a warning to members claiming beekeepers have caught "several" more of the insects. The organisation said the National Bee Unit - which runs Defra's bee programme - reckons the hornets are related to French insects but may be weak due to inbreeding.

In a statement to members, the British Beekeepers Association said: "The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) was found by a beekeeper in the Tetbury area last week and other beekeepers in the immediate area have since seen hornets hawking in front of their hives.

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A 20km incident zone has been imposed by Defra and the National Bee Unit (NBU) is currently locating the nest. Fortunately the NBU have been expecting the arrival of the Asian hornet for some time and had a contingency plan ready to go.

The NBU has caught several hornets and examined their genetics; it appears that these hornets are related to those in France.  So they have not come in from China or another country.

This is important because they are obviously breeding from quite a small genetic pool and may have been weakened from in-breeding.  The issue is whether they flew directly from France to Gloucester which is considered unlikely.

The Asian hornet - or yellow-legged hornet - is smaller than the UK's native hornet and has yellow legs, a dark velvety thorax, and a dark abdomen with a distinctive yellow band on the fourth segment.

And from The Westmorland Gazette:

Pest experts urge South Lakeland residents to be alert to Asian Hornets

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European Hornet eating a wasp. Wonder if he would like some salt and pepper with that...

From the BBC:

'Colossal' wasp nest found in Corby attic

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A "colossal" wasp nest the size of a "barrel" with a tunnel attached has been found in the attic of a house.

The homeowner near Corby discovered the one-metre wide nest (3.2ft) while renovating the property, which had been empty for two years, as reported in the Northampton Chronicle.

Pest controller Gary Wilkinson said "luckily" the wasps had moved out about a year earlier.

Its size and long entry tunnel made it a "spectacular work of art", he added.

Mr Wilkinson was treating the house in Pipewell for woodworm, when the owner who wants to remain anonymous, said: "Can you come a have a quick look at this for me?"

"We just went, 'Wow', as it was colossal," Mr Wilkinson said.

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"It's the biggest I've ever seen by quite a margin.

"It's an impressive wasp nest alright - much bigger than a barrel.

"They can get to the size of a large football but this is something else altogether."

The company said the nest was "rare" not only because of its size, but

because the wasps had built an "intricate tunnel from the nest to the outside" which was perfectly preserved.

The tunnel itself measures about 1.4m (4.5ft).

Mr Wilkinson estimates anything from 6,000 to 10,000 wasps could have called the nest their home.

An "average" nest would "typically have up to 3,000 wasps", a company spokesman said.

Mr Wilkinson described the structure as "quite beautiful" and made from paper-like material the insects had stripped from fences and tree bark.

Fortunately for the homeowner and pest control team, the nest had "gone to its full life-cycle" and there was nothing left alive in it.

"We'd certainly not be that close to something that size - even in a bee suit - if we thought it was still being used," Mr Wilkinson said.

 

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