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Harmless hoverflies become collateral damage in war on Asian hornets

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ISLANDERS are being urged to go easy on Jersey’s hoverflies – as the insects have become collateral damage in the war on Asian hornets.

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The harmless hornet mimic hoverfly got its name as it has evolved to resemble its more fearsome stinging counterpart in an attempt to deter predators.

But it is also fooling Islanders.

During recent weeks the flies have found themselves either being reported to the Environment Department – or meeting a grisly death between a swatter and a window pane.

‘The poor hoverflies have been getting it in the neck,’ said Alastair Christie, Jersey’s Asian hornet co-ordinator.

‘About half the reports I get are of hoverflies, rather than Asian hornets. I am also getting emails from people saying “here’s a picture of an Asian hornet I squashed in my kitchen” when actually it was a hoverfly.

‘I don’t want to put people off reporting suspected Asian hornets, but it is important that people know the difference. Hoverflies go about their completely harmless business without bothering anyone and they are an important part of Jersey’s wildlife. We do want to raise awareness so people know the difference between the two,’ he added.

One of the key differences is that the tip of an Asian hornet is brown, while the bottom of a hornet mimic hoverfly is yellow-orange.

Hoverflies also have large bulbous eyes and big wings and make a loud buzzing sound.

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Meanwhile, Mr Christie revealed that 32 nests had been found so far this year – compared to 23 by this time in 2018.

In the past week, two nests have been found in St Catherine, with a further two in Rozel. One of the Rozel nests was in a roof space.

Another nest was discovered half a metre off the ground inside brambles at La Moye, while another was spotted by a swimmer at Anne Port.

Mr Christie said: ‘It’s not surprising that we have had so many nests this year. It was a mild winter and we know we had a few nests left over from last summer so we will have had home-grown queens as well as reinvasions from France. As well as this, people are more aware and are reporting them more.’

Anyone who wants to volunteer to track hornets – or anyone wanting to report a sighting – is being urged to email asianhornet@gov.je or phone 441 633.

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