Beekeepers have appealed to the public to be on alert for 'bee killer' Asian hornets after they were spotted across the country.

We've put together everything you need to know about them - including what to do if you see one.

What is an Asian hornet and how did they get to the UK?

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), also known as the yellow-legged hornet or Asian predatory wasp, is native to Asia.

According to the Asian Hornet Action Team (AHAT), it is believed that it was accidentally imported into Southern France from China around 2004 and has spread rapidly through France and into neighbouring countries - including the UK.

Why are they so dangerous?

Beekeepers say the Asian Hornets are a threat to all pollinators, not just honey bees.

Gerry Stuart, Torbay AHAT member, said: “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.”

Can a Asian hornet kill a human?

Just as with honey bee stings, an allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, can occasionally put people in the hospital.

However in rare cases, severe reactions can become fatal.

Where can their nests be found?

Colin Lodge, a member of Torbay beekeepers and the founder of the first AHAT team in the UK added: “Generally nests are found high in trees but they are now starting to be found low down in garden shrubs, undergrowth, and roadside banks.

"Bee Inspectors found one in a shrub outside a dining room window of a house.

"Blundering into such nests in these sorts of places without protection has led to a number of fatalities on the continent from adverse reactions to the insects venom from multiple stings.

"For this reason, and that Asian Hornet could decimate our local native pollinator populations, we are asking everyone, to learn how to identify this non-native species from the other flying insects we usually see at this time of year.”

Why have beekeepers urged people to be on high alert?

AHATs have encouraged members of the public to be on the alert for Asian hornets until the end of October.

Ivy which will be coming into flower over the next few weeks, or fallen fruit makes for an excellent place to look out for them either in your garden or elsewhere.

Simon O’Sullivan, chairman of Devon AHAT said: “We continue to strive towards a ‘co-ordinated partnership approach’ with our Bee Inspectors from the National Bee Unit to assistwith this incursion.

"We need the public to be aware of what this insect looks like, and to understand the potential damage that this insect can cause to all of our native pollinators not just honey bees but butterflies, bumble bees, hoverflies and other essential pollinators.”

How can a report of an Asian hornet be made?

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.

The Asian Hornet Watch week will run from September 7 to 13, 2020 and AHAT members have urged the public to be attentive and to report any sightings.