KEY POINTS

  • The Asian hornet has been spotted in Ireland for the first time
  • The Vespa velutina is an invasive predator
  • Authorities say there is no evidence that it is established in the country

An invasive hornet species that is closely related to the so-called "murder hornet" has been spotted for the first time in Ireland. It has been found in a "private dwelling" in north Dublin.

The first sighting of the predator species was made on April 25. The single specimen was "alive but dying," the country's National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage said in a press release Friday. It was confirmed to be a female Asian hornet (Vespa velutina).

Just like the Vespa mandarinia or the invasive Asian giant hornet dubbed "murder hornets," Vespa velutina is considered to be a "pest of concern" outside of its native range in Asia, the University of Florida (UF) said. And much like the Asian giant hornets, Asian hornets are predators that threaten bees and other important pollinators.

Considered to be having "high invasion potential," it has invaded a few European regions including Spain, the U.K., Belgium and Holland since it was first spotted in France in 2004. In France, it is observed that the species have decimated 14,000 honey bees per hive per month, Invasive Species Ireland said.

It is still not clear exactly how the hornet arrived in Dublin.

"There is no indication of a nest in the vicinity and on the basis of the ongoing surveillance, there is no evidence that Asian hornet is established in Ireland at this time," the National Biodiversity Data Centre (NBDC) said.

Authorities are posting additional surveillance at "strategic locations" and even providing the public with information so they can also identify a possible Asian hornet if they happen to see one. Ireland's Minister of State for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Malcolm Noonan, also urged the people to not over-react if they see other large, native insects.

"It is imperative other species are not targeted, disrupted or destroyed on foot of this discovery of the Asian hornet specimen," he said.

The NBDC has tweeted a list of other species that often get mistaken for the Asian hornet.

"While the discovery of a single specimen is not a cause for alarm, it does remind us of the potential for invasive alien species to find a path of introduction into new areas and also serves as a timely reminder that we should be prepared to deal with the threat they pose to biodiversity and local ecosystems," the NPWS said.

Vespa Velutina Pictured: Representative image of a vespa velutina. Photo: Nicolas Y. D. TIREL/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain