Residents in Dorset are being asked to stay vigilant following the first confirmed sighting of an Asian hornet in the UK.

The invasive species - which preys on honey bees and can destroy entire colonies - was confirmed in Tetbury, Gloucestershire earlier this week. 

It has been seen in Europe regularly over the last decade, and is thought to have arrived in France in a shipment of pottery from China.

Up til now there have been no confirmed sightings of it on this side of the channel.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has set up a three-mile surveillance zone and a ‘species alert’ has been issued.

Nicola Spence, Defra’s deputy director for plant and bee health, said: “We have been anticipating the arrival of the Asian hornet for some years and have a well-established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread.

“It’s important to remember they pose no greater risk to human health than a bee, though we recognise the damage they can cause to honeybee colonies. That’s why we are taking swift and robust action to identify and destroy any nests.”

Echo readers have previously reported sightings of what they believed to be Asian hornets, but this is the first time the insect has been confirmed by Defra.

The British Pest Control Association says many more are now likely to be found - most likely in southern areas.

Simon Forrester, chief executive of the BPCA, said: “Professional pest controllers have been aware of the threat posed by Asian hornets, alongside other invasive species, for some time.

“The first sighting will almost certainly not be the last, but if people report them sensibly then major problems can be avoided.

“Our members will do everything they can to maintain the health of our honey bee population and can be called upon to deal sensitively with any situation that arises.”

The distinctive hornet, smaller than the native species, is most likely to be found in southern parts of England and could also be accidentally imported among goods such as soil with pot plants, cut flowers, fruit and timber.

Its active months are between April and November though its inactive over the winter.

It is often confused with the Asian Giant Hornet, which is much larger and whose sting can be fatal. Asian hornets are only dangerous to people who are allergic to their stings.

Sightings should be sent with a photograph and local details to

What does it look like?

• Smaller than our native European Hornet species, they have an almost entirely dark abdomen except for the fourth segment which is yellow.

• Bright yellow tips to legs (native hornet dark)

• Entirely brown or black thorax (native hornet more orange)

• Workers can be up to 25mm in length.