Experts have warned deadly Asian hornets are nesting in UK wardrobes - after one was found in an elderly woman’s trousers. The pensioner got the fright of her life and dialled 999 after spotting the killer bug in her clothes.
Officers and beekeepers in Jersey in the Channel Islands raced to her home to remove the bug, which she had captured in a yoghurt pot. The island is currently the front line of an invading force of the hornets capable of decimating the native bee population in the British Isles.
Volunteers hunting the insects there have recorded more than twice as many as ever in the UK this year. The experts thought they had time to regroup ready to go again next year under the expectation they had gone into hibernation for the winter.
But this week a Queen hornet was found in the clothing of an elderly woman. And the unusual discovery has prompted a warning for homeowners on the Channel Island to check their wardrobes and drawers.
The bugs might be seeking warmth for the winter. A total of 174 nests were discovered on Jersey during the season - more than double the previous record of 68.
Describing the latest discovery, hunter and beekeeper John de Carteret said it should be a warning to everyone. He added: "So although the Asian Hornet nests appear to have stopped at number 174, which is a massive increase for Jersey this year, I’m afraid there’s another concern to be aware of.
"Following an initial call to the States of Jersey Police Force Control Room, then via the Asian Hornet Coordinator, I was asked to attend at a house off Wellington Hill, where the very elderly lady occupant had disturbed a large insect. Her description indicated that it was an Asian Hornet.
"On my arrival, she had it still alive and buzzing, trapped under a clear yoghurt tub, and it clearly was a large Asian Hornet, almost certainly a Queen, which will be confirmed during dissection. But here’s the concern, the lady found this Asian Hornet when she took a pair of trousers, out of a wardrobe upstairs in her bedroom, where this likely Asian Hornet Queen was in hibernation.
"It flew to the window, where she bravely managed to capture it. They never look the same dead, apart from the smirk on its face, but a couple identification features can clearly be seen, the orange face, and in particular the yellow lower legs.
"Another issue this raises is that the closest recorded Asian Hornet nest is over 800m away on Trinity Hill, and as professional researchers tell us that the newly emerged Asian Hornet Queens hibernate near their nests, this may tend to indicate the presence of an unrecorded nest close by.”
The battle in both Jersey and Guernsey is seen as vital to stop the spread of the insects that could decimate the UK’s native bee population. This year’s tally of 174 compares to a previous record of 83 nests located by the Jersey Asian Hornet Group in 2019, followed by 38 and 63 in the two subsequent years.
The species began to spread through Europe in 2004 after arriving in the south of France inside a freight ship. They were spotted in the British Isles on the Channel Island of Jersey in late 2016.
But after years of establishing themselves on Jersey and Guernsey, the battleground shifted last year to Southern England. This led to calls for a "people’s army" to help fight off an impending invasion of killer hornets onto mainland Britain.
The hornets are able to kill with one sting among people who have an allergy, while they also pose a threat to the environment and native species. One hornet can also eat 50 bees in a day.