A SPELL of warm weather and the impact of climate change has brought a new resident to Cumbria’s countryside.
A small number of Britain’s native hornet - Vespa crabro - has been found at Natural England’s Roudsea Wood and Mosses National Nature Reserve, near Haverthwaite.
This is the first time this species has been recorded in Cumbria.
Rob Petley-Jones, Natural England’s senior reserves manager for the National Nature Reserves in south-east Cumbria and north Lancashire, spotted hornets in a moth trap. He said: “The moth traps that I run are benign. After being looked at, the insects are then released back into the wild.
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“The traps catch many more types of insect than just moths but I knew these particular insects were something special when I took the lid off the trap.
“One, unfortunately, had died but the second was very much alive and buzzing. It flew happily off into Roudsea Wood, perhaps back to a nest in a hollow tree.”
The dead hornet has been sent to Tullie House Museum in Carlisle, where it will be put on display. Hornets have long been native to southern Britain but in recent years have been expanding their range northwards.
Mr Petley-Jones said it was likely that these hornets were the vanguard of a future colonisation of Cumbria.
Hornets are about twice as large as the more common wasp but Mr Petley Jones said: “They may look fearsome, but are actually more docile than the smaller wasps so we should not be too worried about being stung.”
The native hornet is not to be confused with the Asian hornet, a voracious predator of other insects which may reach southern England in the next few years. The Asian hornet is much larger and more brightly coloured.
Mr Petley-Jones said: “If it does reach our shores it could become a significant threat to our native bees and wasps. In the meantime we should celebrate the arrival of our native hornet.”