Bee killing Asian hornets could be on the cusp of invading Britain as unsuspecting tourists bring the insects back from Europe.
There are concerns that the large wasp-like insects will become accidental stowaways after finding their way into holidaymakers' luggage or even in the boots of cars.
As thousands of families return from their holiday's abroad for the start of the school term it is a prime time for many of the black and yellow striped beasts to invade, reports The Sun.
In Devon, Cornwall and Dorset the Asian Hornet Action Team are urging the public to contact the group if they see evidence of Asian hornets in the area.
Signs on the continent have been advising people travelling back to Britain to check boats and vehicles on their return.
A spokesperson for Asian Hornet Action Team said: "Unsuspecting travellers could be bringing hidden Asian hornets into Britain in their vehicles and luggage, thus inadvertently releasing queen hornets that will hibernate and establish new nests here next spring."
According to the Wildlife Trust the Asian hornet, vespa velutina, preys on insects, including honey bees and other pollinators causing untold damage to the ecosystem.
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The trust says that the Asian hornets can also be "accidentally imported" through goods such as timber, soil, fruit, potted plants and cut flowers.
The non-native Asian predatory wasp's first confirmed sighting by the National Bee Unit was in the Tetbury area of Gloucestershire in September 2016, and they were discovered in France in 2004.
The Asian hornet will prey on bees and is extremely skilled at killing them, certainly capable of eating 50 honey bees a day – but they also pose no greater risk to human health than other hornets or wasps.
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However, giant Asian hornets are regularly confused with Asian hornets – smaller insects that are less harmful to humans.
A Defra spokesperson said: “There have been no confirmed sightings of Asian giant hornets in Europe and this species must not be mistaken for the more common Asian hornet.
“While the Asian hornet has been found in the UK, these pose no greater risk to human health than a bee.”
Nature experts at Buglife have also asked people to be mindful of the British hornet which is native to the country and play an important role in the garden.
A spokesperson said: "We are concerned that native hornets are being mistaken for Asian hornets, and being killed unnecessarily."
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