AN Asian hornet that preys on honeybees has been identified in Bury, according to officials.

The insect, which is smaller than the UK's native hornet, was spotted by a member of the public, in a cauliflower found to have been grown in Boston, in Lincolnshire.

The Asian hornet poses no greater risk to humans, but could cause 'serious damage' to honey bee colonies, officials say.

Asian hornets arrived in France in 2004 and are now common across large areas of Europe, with experts on standby in the UK in recent years for the insect's arrival.

Work is under way in both Bury and Boston to identify any nests, including setting up a surveillance zone and traps in the two locations, and deploying bee inspectors to visit local beekeepers, the Environment Department (Defra) said.

It is the first confirmed sighting since last year, when a nest was discovered in North Devon and destroyed.

The first sighting on the UK mainland was in Gloucestershire in 2016.

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 investigate any nests in the Bury and Boston areas following this confirmed sighting.

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

"We remain vigilant across the country, working closely with the National Bee Unit and their nationwide network of bee inspectors."