Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered at on 14 May 2024.

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Photo of Sarah Dines Sarah Dines Conservative, Derbyshire Dales

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to provide (a) resources, (b) strategy and (c) public information to tackle invasive Asian hornets.

Photo of Rebecca Pow Rebecca Pow The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

The National Bee Unit (NBU), part of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) have a long-standing relationship with Defra to deliver the Bee Health Programme which includes management and control of honeybee pests and diseases and responding to outbreaks of Asian hornets. As part of APHA, the NBU have already and will continue to draw on further resources from the wider agency to take action on Asian hornets. There is an Asian hornet contingency plan in place which details the government response to Asian hornets and it is regularly reviewed. The most effective way of minimising the threat of Asian hornets is through our continued eradication response, with the aim of preventing Asian hornets from establishing.

The NBU has been taking action against Asian hornets since 2016 and has a fine-tuned response. The Inspectors frequently find a nest within a day of an initial sighting being reported. From 2016 to 2022, there were 23 confirmed sightings, leading to the destruction of 13 nests. In 2023, the well-developed strategy was scaled up to deal with increased incursions with 78 confirmed sightings and 72 nests destroyed.

We are using a range of communication channels to raise awareness and keep beekeepers and the public informed about Asian hornets. To support accurate and timely reporting, Defra has funded development of the Asian hornet watch app. The NBU keep beekeepers informed of the response through updates published on BeeBase and have also carried out other awareness raising activities, including a blog filmed in Kent to support Asian Hornet Week in 2023. The Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) works with over 50 local actions groups and a wide range of other organisations to raise awareness of Asian hornets. In 2023 they sent out 14,000 alert posters and 25,000 ID sheets, and since January 2024 they have sent a further 31,000 alert posters, 57,000 ID sheets, and 14,000 nest ID sheets. Professor Nicola Spence, the Defra Deputy Director for Plant and Bee Health, Plant Varieties and Seeds, has provided press interviews covering details of the response to Asian hornets. Defra is hosting an exhibit at the 2024 Chelsea Flower Show dedicated to raising awareness of the Asian hornet, to increase vigilance amongst the public.

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