Smartphone app aims to prevent Asian hornet invasion

Smartphone technology is being used as the latest weapon in helping prevent the spread of an invasive species.

A new app has been launched to enable quick and easy reporting of possible sightings of the Asian hornet – a highly aggressive predator of native insects, in particular honey bees.

The Asian hornet was discovered in Gloucestershire in autumn 2016 but Government bee inspectors were able to track down and destroy the nest, containing any further outbreak. There are fears the pest could reappear this spring, so members of the public are being urged to report any sightings.

Asian hornets can be distinguished from their native counterparts by their abdomens which are entirely dark except for a single band of yellow (native hornets' abdomens are predominantly yellow).

People will be able to use the free app, called Asian Hornet Watch, to record sightings and send pictures of suspect insects to experts at the National Bee Unit.

Public affairs manager at the British Beekeepers' Association, Martin Smith, said: "This new app launched by Defra is a welcome addition to current reporting methods that have enabled beekeepers and members of the public to report possible sightings.

"The key to containment is catching outbreaks as early as possible and allowing fast tracking of the insects back to their nest. We will certainly be encouraging all our 25,000 beekeepers to install the app and use it if they see what might be an Asian hornet near their hives."

The interactive app, developed by the Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, will help people to judge whether they've seen an Asian hornet; with pictures available of other insects that it could be confused with and helpful information about their size, appearance and the times of year they are most likely to be spotted.

The app can be downloaded from Apple and Android stores.