Home-grown hornets are being persecuted in the wake of Asian hornet invasions according to Devon Wildlife Trust (DWT).

A hornets nest. Picture: Devon Wildlife TrustA hornets nest. Picture: Devon Wildlife Trust

The trust is worried members of the public are destroying nests belonging to European hornets after confusing them with the invasive Asian species.

Asian hornets can be devastating to honey bees, raiding and destroying their colonies, but DWT believes fears over the arrival of the Asian hornet – of which nests were found in North Devon last year and Cornwall last month – has led to a ‘misguided persecution’ of the separate species.

DWT’s Steve Hussey said all the cases the trust had investigated had proved to be European hornets.

He said: “We’ve had several people telling us via social media that they think they have an Asian hornet nest on their property and asking if they can destroy it.

“Other people have told us that they have already gone ahead and destroyed nests, suspecting them of belonging to Asian hornets.

“Unfortunately, where we’ve been able to do further investigation all the cases have proved to be European hornets and not the invasive species.

“This is really unfortunate. European hornets are a beautiful and vital part of our environment. They also help us by helping to keep in check many insect species that gardeners consider to be pests.”

Devon Wildlife Trust is advising people to be aware of the threat of Asian hornets and follow official guidelines on suspected cases.

This means taking photographs of the insect without disturbing the nest and submitting a sighting report to the GB Non-native Species Secretariat.

Mr Hussey said: “Telling a native European hornet apart from an Asian hornet isn’t always easy. Our native hornets are slightly bigger, while Asian hornets tend to be smaller and of a darker colour, not yellow, especially on their thorax (middle section) and abdomens (tail section).”

“However, it is easy to be confused, so our advice is always not to destroy a nest, but instead to report suspected sightings of Asian hornets to the NNSS.”

An outbreak of Asian hornets was discovered in Woolacombe in September 2017.

Defra confirmed the site had been treated and removed the following month.

Reports can be made by visiting www.nonnativespecies.org