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Mark Andrews: Duck and cover! The hornets are heading your way...

Be afraid. Be very afraid. If you think things are getting a bit hairy at the moment, what with inflation set to exceed 10 per cent, soaring fuel prices, and that creepy Russian bloke threatening to blow us all sky high, wait until you hear what is heading our way next.

An Asian hornet (vespa velutina) with darker abdomen and yellow on the legs. PIC CREDIT Jean Haxaire
An Asian hornet (vespa velutina) with darker abdomen and yellow on the legs. PIC CREDIT Jean Haxaire

Apparently we should now brace ourselves for a plague of deadly Asian hornets winging their way across the Channel. Flying assassins the size of footballs, with a sting so deadly that they could turn southern England into a desert wasteland within 18 months. After which they will then sieze control of the Midlands and force us all to hide in underground lairs until we are given the all-clear.

Ok, I might have exaggerated some of the above. But hyperbole is all the rage these days. I am not sure whether at this stage the threat constitutes a bog-standard Asian hornet crisis, an Extinction Rebellion style Asian hornet emergency, or a full-blown Asian hornet disaster. But nevertheless, it sounds pretty scary.

According to reports in The Sun – which therefore must be true ­– the hornets have jaws strong enough to chew through protective clothing, and contain a neurotoxin that can kill in just a single sting. The sting also holds eight chemicals that can cause an allergic shock in humans, and in France six people have already been killed. And if that is not enough, they are also a deadly threat to our dwindling honeybee population, often eating up to 50 bees a day.

Francis Russell, the Asian hornet project co-ordinator, says the first warning signs came last month when one of the hornets was caught in the island of Alderney on Tuesday. A second was found dead in the Guernsey village of L’Islet and another was later caught in a trap in a garden. Presumably, then this means that it will only be a matter of time before they start rocking up on the beach at Hastings like it's 1066 all over again.

Now in a sensible world of course, we would strike a deal where any hornets found making an unauthorised crossing would be sent for processing in Rwanda, but it sounds like they might not be entirely co-operative. Experts say that up to 700 insects will gang together to attack anybody they see as a perceived threat.

And if you happen across them, don't even think about trying to run away. Not only can they comfortably outpace any human, they are intrigued by any moving target. And it seems their egos are also quite fragile, and may consider your attempts to run away as a personal affront. The advice is that one should crouch down on the ground, and cover one's head.

Which, coincidently, was also the advice they gave us last time the Russians were threatening to incinerate us with nuclear weapons. Duck and cover. Protect and survive.

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