Asian hornet: pest-specific contingency plan

This plan sets out the role of the Scottish Government in response to a suspected or confirmed incursion of the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) within Scotland: the actions to be taken as well as governance, roles and responsibilities.

Operational activity

31. This next section of the Contingency Plan sets out an overview of the processes and governance of the search, identification, confirmation, co-ordination and response, and post-incident management.

32. It is triggered by an assessment that the information provided constitutes a credible sighting, or credible evidence of the presence of, the Asian hornet and requires further investigation.

33. SG Honey Bee Health Team will follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure that operational activities are undertaken consistently and in line with agreed process.

34. Immediately on agreement that the information or evidence confirms or strongly suggests presence of an Asian hornet incursion in Scotland, the following governance will be implemented to manage and deal with the incident.

  • Strategic: Asian Hornet Strategic Oversight Group
  • Planning: Asian Hornet Incident Management Team
  • Operational: Asian Hornet Operational Response Team


Asian Hornet Strategic Oversight Group

35. In the event of a credible or confirmed sighting of an Asian hornet, the SG Honey Bee Health Policy Team will convene the Asian Hornet Strategic Oversight Group (Oversight Group) and arrange an urgent meeting.

36. The Oversight Group will be chaired by the Senior Responsible Officer, in this case the Chief Veterinary Officer. Membership will include:

i. Honey Bee Health Senior Veterinary Advisor;

ii. SG Honey Bee Health Policy Lead in their capacity as Incident Commander

iii. SG Comms;

iv. NatureScot Terrestrial Invertebrates Adviser (and senior manager where appropriate);

v. Senior Entomologist at SASA

vi. SG Plant Health lead;

vii. SG Animal Disease lead;

viii. others deemed appropriate.

37. The Honey Bee Health Policy Lead (hereafter referred to as the Incident Management Lead) will be responsible for collating and preparing material for the Oversight Group meetings, and for acting on the recommendations arising and managing all strategic activities relating to the incursion. The SRO for the incursion will attend any ministerial meetings required.

38. Specific activities for the Oversight Group will include:

  • Determining a “battle rhythm” for the incursion including frequency of Oversight Group meetings
  • Developing recommendations as necessary for Ministers on the strategic direction of response and control policies based on the advice of the Incident Management Team and scientific advice from SASA and NatureScot’s Terrestrial Invertebrates Adviser.
  • Considering the impacts of the incursion
  • Agreeing communication and stakeholder engagement plans.


Asian Hornet Incident Management Team (Incident Management Team)

39. An Asian Hornet Incident Management Team (Incident Management Team) will be established, led by the Honey Bee Health Policy Lead acting as Incident Management Lead.

40. The Incident Management Team will comprise:

i. Scottish Chief Veterinary Officer (or Deputy)

ii. the Honey Bee Health Veterinary Advisor

iii. Honey Bee Health Delivery Lead

iv. Senior Entomologist and Entomology Lab Manager in SASA

v. Deputy Heads of Area Offices

vi. NatureScot Terrestrial Invertebrates Adviser (and/or Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) Manager as appropriate)

vii. National Bee Unit representative

41. The Incident Management Team is responsible for developing specific actions to deal with the incursion, as directed by the Oversight Group.

42. The functions of the Incident Management Team include:

  • Gathering intelligence about the incursion and providing advice on management and recommended actions to the Oversight Group
  • Identifying and securing additional resources as required to manage incident
  • Maintaining outbreak records/documents (e.g. action list, core briefing, event briefing, lessons identified);
  • Engaging with stakeholders per the Communications Plan
  • Set up and provide secretariat to the Oversight Group meetings

43. The Incident Management Team will be convened immediately when a credible sighting has been confirmed to initiate the initial actions as set out in the Operational section of this Plan.

44. The Incident Management Team will convene daily or at such other frequency as is determined by the Oversight Group.

45. The Incident Management Team will note and distribute agreed actions from each Incident Management Team meeting allowing attendees to prepare appropriate comms and plan for next steps.

46. The Incident Management Team will notify Ministers that a credible sighting is being investigated and prepare press lines in readiness, and will update Ministers throughout.

47. The Incident Management Team will liaise with other Devolved Administrations to apprise of the credible sighting and actions being taken.


Asian Hornet Operational Response Team

48. The Honey Bee Health Delivery Lead will take on the role of Operational Response Team Lead in the event of any credible sighting and confirmed incursion, and will initiate actions rapidly to establish whether the incursion is isolated or widespread and to establish an Asian Hornet Response Team (Response Team).

49. The Operational Response Team Lead will set out specific actions for the outbreak, taking into account where the hornet was found (urban, rural, wooded), responsibilities for taking forward the action and local ‘battle rhythm’ (taking into account the ‘battle rhythm’ set by Oversight Group). The actions will be agreed by the Incident Management Team and signed off by the Oversight Group.

50. Specific activities of the Operational Response Team Lead will include:

  • Identifying, securing, co-ordinating and deploying the necessary SG, SASA and NatureScot Response Team personnel, equipment, facilities and any correspondence and licences that may be required;
  • Collating daily sit reps from field inspectors and if necessary, beekeepers providing assistance in the search, and providing an overview of daily activities and recommended next steps to the Incident Management Team;
  • Co-ordinating information about the incursion and dissemination of technical and advisory material to stakeholders and beekeeping associations and other relevant parties who may be able to contact keepers to facilitate inspection arrangements;
  • Liaising with SRUC to ensure that the required training is developed.

51. Specific activities of the Response Team will include:

  • “track and tracing” activities and surveillance in order to locate potential nests and to monitor the presence of Asian hornets in the area.
  • Providing daily sit reps and technical advice to the Response Team Lead as the situation develops
  • the destruction and disposal of insects and nests

52. On receipt of the report(s) from the field inspectors, and based on advice from the Operational Response Team Lead, the Incident Management Team will make an assessment on whether it is an isolated outbreak which may be contained. It will then make a recommendation for the Oversight Group meeting to take place to obtain necessary authorisation to attempt eradication of the pest.

53. N.B. ‘Isolated’ means that Asian hornets have only been found in a very limited number of sites in a restricted geographical area and that the data produced from follow up searches shows a high probability of success of eradication.

Initial investigation and reporting

54. Honey Bee Health Inspectors will be despatched to confirm or rule out the identification of Asian hornet.

55. At the end of the initial day of investigation, the Honey Bee Health Inspectors will have a sit rep call with the Operational Response Lead to provide an update.

56. If adult insects are found to be present, these will be used to confirm or rule out the identification of Asian hornet, initially by the Honey Bee Health Inspectors and confirmed by the diagnostic team at SASA. If a partial nest, larvae and/or dead insects are found, these will be sent to SASA, if necessary by courier, for next day delivery.

57. If no insects or nests are present at the time of arrival on site, the inspector will conduct a survey of the immediate vicinity of the sighting (radius 500m) to seek out suspect insects on the wing and/or nest.

58. If the sighting is deemed to be a credible one based on the information provided, but there are no insects or nests present at the time of arrival on site and the advice of the Honey Bee Health Inspectors, NatureScot Terrestrial Invertebrates Advisor, Veterinary Advisor and SASA Senior Entomologist, National Bee Unit, and any other specialists whom the Operational Response Lead may contact for advice, is that it is not possible to confirm or negate the presence of the insect, the Operational Response Team Lead will discuss the next course of action with the Incident Management Team. If appropriate, the Operational Response Team Lead may be requested to liaise with the Deputy Head of Area Offices to draft in additional Honey Bee Health Inspectors to assist in surveillance.

59. Following initial investigation, the Honey Bee Health Inspectors despatched to determine the status of potential incursion will provide a Nest Location Proforma and/or AH1 Inspection Update to the Response Team Lead, following which Response Team Lead will update the Incident Management Team within one (1) day, triggering the appropriate actions depending on the outcome of the investigation.

60. The Operational Response Team Lead, under approval from the Oversight Group, will consider setting open bait stations or monitoring traps for surveillance purposes according to the RPID’s Standard Operating Procedures.

61. To consider circumstantial evidence that the suspect sighting is likely to be genuine, RPID will use data from BeeBase and their register of beekeepers to establish proximity of the suspect sighting to beekeeping activities and proximity to risk points (e.g. freight depots, airports, seaports). A note of caution would be that, based on some previous outbreaks in other parts of the UK, and on the “hitch-hiking” behaviour and seasonal biology of this insect, introductions of the pest are likely to be linked to final destination and reports should not be discounted solely on the absence of an entry risk point.

62. The Operational Response Team Lead will liaise with the Scottish Beekeepers Association to alert local beekeeping associations and ask its members to be extra vigilant for possible sightings and provide information on how to identify and report any possible sightings, and to provide local knowledge to field inspectors if required.

63. On confirmation of an Asian hornet finding, the following actions described will be undertaken and the following command structures and procedures will be put in place.

Surveillance and Inspection

64. Based on intelligence from the Operational Response Team to establish the extent of the outbreak and, if possible, its source, as well as whether there are further nests in the restricted area and the likelihood of any nests further afield, the Operational Response Team Lead will recommend the size of the surveillance areas and priorities to the Incident Management Team Lead for confirmation from the Strategic Oversight Group.

65. Where possible, a triangulation method for locating potential nests will be used. In many cases, however, the triangulation approach for locating nests will not be appropriate due to the speed of flight, behaviour of the hornet, and viable sightlines. The initial response is likely to concentrate on visiting food sources (apiaries for protein and nectar forage sites such as ivy). To gauge the extent of the incursion and narrow the search for the nest(s), traps may be left. Inspectors should provide a record of the placement of bait stations and trap placement using Google Maps via email to the Honey Bee Health Delivery Lead at the end of each working day.

66. If an Asian hornet is located and trapped, Honey Bee Health Inspectors may deem it appropriate to apply a track and trace procedure to locate its nest and the potential for other nests and hornets to be sited in the vicinity. Section 16(4)(c) The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Scotland) permits the licensing for certain activities, including keeping and releasing a non-native species such as the Asian hornet for the purpose of supporting an eradication measure. NatureScot are the licensing authority in this instance.

67. Follow-up inspections will be completed based on any information gathered by this process, based on expert assessment by the Incident Management Team of potential spread from the point of entry in order to assist with targeted inspections.

68. A Nest Location Proforma and/or AH1 Inspection Update Template will be submitted by the field inspectors to the Honey Bee Health Delivery Lead after each inspection of the site. Each nest, when identified and destroyed, will be notified to the Operational Response Team Lead via the Nest Location Proforma, and the Operational Response Team Lead will update the Incident Management Team.

Establishment of Demarcated Areas (Surveillance Area)

69. On confirmation of an incursion, an area around the location of the original incursion site will be agreed by the Oversight Group. The boundaries of the surveillance area will be precisely defined by the Honey Bee Health Team and will be published on the SG website’s Honey Bee Health page and other sites as thought appropriate.

70. Based on current knowledge of the dispersal of Asian hornet, the surveillance area will initially cover a minimum 2km radius and may be altered and enlarged as circumstances change. Surveillance activities will initially be prioritised within a radius of two kilometres from the sighting.

71. To aid detection of any or further nests following a positive sighting, all beekeepers with apiaries within 20 kilometres of the credible sighting will be notified through a BeeBase alert.

72. Additionally, the Incident Management Team will liaise with the Scottish Beekeepers Association to alert local beekeeping associations and ask its members to monitor for Asian hornet.

73. The Operational Response Team Lead will arrange for the affected areas to be revisited and place apiaries and other sites where Asian hornets may be seen under close surveillance. This surveillance will comprise of monitoring traps being in place until the end of the season. Volunteer beekeeper resource from nearby keepers and local beekeeping associations may be utilised as part of this. The length of time under which affected areas will remain under increased surveillance, and the level of surveillance required, will be highly dependent on the time of the year that the initial incursion was detected:

a. If a nest is found and destroyed early in the year (e.g. May) when Asian hornet nests are extremely unlikely to have released queens, then the likelihood that eradication will have been successful is high. Therefore, the timescale for post-eradication surveillance could be reduced.

b. If a nest is found and destroyed later in the year (e.g. October) when Asian hornet female queens are likely to have been released into the environment, then the likelihood that undiscovered nests and overwintering queens will exist is high. In this situation, it is therefore vital to continue to monitor for new nests throughout the rest of the year, as well as into the following spring, summer, and autumn in order to support the eradication objective.

74. The period of continued surveillance following destruction of the nest must be long enough to confirm continued freedom from the Asian hornet. The period of surveillance will be confirmed by the Oversight Group as advised by the Operational Response Lead and will be appropriate to the specific circumstances of each incident.

75. The lifting of surveillance area(s) will be based on advice by the Incident Management Team and signed-off by the Chief Veterinary Officer. In the event that surveillance areas are cross-border, the Scottish Government’s Honey Bee Health Policy Team will co-ordinate with their English counterparts to agree the lifting of the surveillance area(s) and both countries’ Chief Veterinary Officers will sign off the decision.


76. On discovery of an Asian hornet and/or nest, this will be destroyed and removed within 5 days. SG Honey Bee Health Inspectors will be responsible for overseeing the process. Contractors identified by NatureScot (who have been trained in Asian hornet nest destruction and who are equipped with necessary specialist equipment including long poles to access nests at height and thermal imaging devices to reveal active nests in concealed locations) will be responsible for the chemical destruction of each nest and its subsequent removal.

77. The Operational Response Team Lead will liaise with NatureScot to ensure that, where the owner or occupier of the premises does not give their permission, the appropriate Emergency Species Control Order is made to provide the legal authority for the pest and nest eradication. An emergency order can be made where action is urgently necessary and expires 49 days after it is made.[4] A warrant should be obtained if entry to carry out work on the premises is likely to be refused or the premises is unoccupied.

78. Powers of entry are available to RPID officers and NatureScot staff and those they nominate under Section 14M of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Authorised staff are not required to give any notice before taking access to determine whether or not to make an Emergency Species Control Order, i.e. look for an Asian hornet nest. These powers of entry cover a wide variety of premises including gardens, out buildings and commercial premises. They do not allow authorised staff to enter dwellings or break any lock barring access without a warrant.

Apiary Movement Restrictions

79. Asian hornets will not spread within Scotland, or the United Kingdom, from movements of honey bees during the beekeeping season, and as the Asian hornet is not notifiable under Bee Health legislation in Scotland, or throughout Great Britain, no restrictions will be placed on apiaries or beehive movements.



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