Predator nest found after scientists put tracker on Asian hornet

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Electronic radio tags have been used for the first time on the UK mainland to help find and destroy a nest of Asian hornets.

University of Exeter scientists joined the hunt after Asian hornets, which prey on honeybees and other pollinators, were spotted feeding on fallen apples south of Brockenhurst in Hampshire last month.

Dr Peter Kennedy, from the University of Exeter, said previous research has shown that tags could be attached to Asian hornets in order to follow them to their nests.

“The National Bee Unit and the Animal and Plant Health Agency were already at the site and had narrowed down the search area to a small wood of mature trees, approximately 500 metres from the original sighting,” Dr Kennedy said.

A tagged Asian hornet
The hornet was big enough to be tagged with a transmitter (University of Exeter/PA)

“The first hornet we caught was large – well capable of carrying one of our radio tags – and flew straight into the woodland and disappeared from view.

“We were able to use our radio telemetry to follow the hornet and reduced the likely nest location to one of three trees, within a couple of hours.

“One of the team of inspectors and local volunteers then quickly spotted the nest in one of these trees.

“The nest was only visible from one or two narrow angles due to the height of the nest and the leaf canopy obscuring the view.”

Radio tagged Asian hornets
The tagged hornet was photographed as it approached its nest (University of Exeter/PA)

They are smaller than native European hornets, have a largely dark or black body and yellow-tipped legs, a distinctive orange-yellow stripe near the end of their abdomen, and often a thin orange-yellow line just behind the waist.

Their face is orange, and the back of the head is black, unlike the European hornet in which both the face, back of the head and a lot of the abdomen are yellow.

To humans they are considered no more dangerous than the common wasp but are a real danger to honeybee hives.

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