The National Bee Unit has confirmed a sighting of the Asian hornet at an apiary near Woolacombe in Devon. The Asian hornet is smaller than the UK's native hornet but poses the risk of destroying honey bee colonies.

This is the first confirmed sighting since last year, when a nest was discovered in the Tetbury area in Gloucestershire. That Asian hornet incursion was successfully contained by bee inspectors who promptly tracked down and destroyed the nest.

The hornet found near Woolacombe is currently undergoing DNA testing at the National Bee Unit in North Yorkshire to help establish how it arrived in the UK.

Work to identify, destroy and remove any nests is already underway. A surveillance zone has been set up around North Devon and a local control centre opened to coordinate the response. Bee inspectors have been deployed across the area who are using infrared cameras and traps to track hornets and locate any nests. Disposal experts are prepared to employ pesticides to kill the hornets and to destroy any nests.

Nicola Spence, Defra deputy director for plant and bee health, said: "While the Asian Hornet poses no greater risk to human health than a bee, we recognise the damage they can cause to honey bee colonies. That’s why we are taking swift and robust action to locate and destroy any nests in the Devon area following this confirmed sighting.

"Following the successful containment of the Asian hornet incursion in Gloucestershire last year, we have a well-established protocol in place to eradicate them and control any potential spread."

Bee inspectors from APHA National Bee Unit will be carrying out surveillance and monitoring initially in a 1-2km radius around the initial sighting. The cost of eradication on private land will be met by APHA.

Anyone who believes they have found a nest should not go near it and report it using the Asian Hornet Watch app which is available to download from the Apple and Android app stores or they can report sightings by email to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk with a photo or via the the Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat website.

For details on the appearance of an Asian hornet please use the Bee Base guide or the non-native species identification guide.