Killer Asian hornets have been spotted in the UK and the public is being asked to help track down the creatures and their nests so they can be destroyed.

The Asian hornet has been sweeping across Europe since 2004, after it was accidentally introduced to southern France from China.

It has now been spotted in Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Somerset and the Channel Islands, reports Devon Live.

Weighing in at about twice the size of a honey bee at 25-35mm, the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) can give a nasty sting, which is sometimes fatal. It has an orange face and a dark abdomen with the 4th segment yellow. Its thorax is entirely dark brown or black and velvety, and the insect has bright yellow tips to its legs.

If the hornets become established in the UK they pose a massive threat to honeybees
Asian hornets are an invasive species invaders and ruthless killers of pollinators like honeybees

The arrival of the hornet in Britain is especially bad news for bees - a favourite food source - and a single hornet can completely devastate a beehive, devouring up to 50 at a time, according to the Daily Mail.

Devon Beekeepers’ Asian Hornet Action Teams (AHATs) say this is the time of year when hornets can be spotted on flowering ivy and fallen fruit and they want the public to be their eyes and ears.

They will set up bait traps and will be able to track any suspected Asian hornets and destroy the nests which can be hidden in overgrown hedgerows.

Members of the public can download the free Asian Hornet Watch App on their smartphone to assist with identification and quick and easy submission of any reports.

Do not provoke a nest of Asian hornets as they are very protective and may attack

Torbay AHAT spokesperson, Gerry Stuart, said: “This is a threat to all pollinators not just honey bees. They are slightly smaller than our native European hornet and it is 25-30mm head to tail, it has an orange face and a dark abdomen with the 4th segment yellow. Its thorax is entirely dark brown or black and velvety, and the insect has bright yellow tips to its legs.

"Unlike our native European hornet (Vespa crabro) , it doesn’t fly at night. Thwarting its establishment here in the UK is crucial to protect our pollinators, UK flora, fruit and other insect pollinated crop production.

"The public should be aware that whilst the Asian hornets are not ordinarily aggressive, they are advised that they should not under any circumstances approach a nest. If they are disturbed, they will actively defend their nests.”

If possible, take a photo or video and send it with any collected specimens to the Non-Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) or the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology or by email at: [email protected]

Or contact your local beekeeping association swarm liaison co-ordinator or swarm collector.

There is an Asian Hornet App which will help you log and report a sighting.

You can contact your nearest AHAT by using this interactive map and they will be help if you are unsure of identification.