DELUDED political extremists excepted, we are all in general agreement that man-made, global climate change is occurring and that it is, for humans at least, a very bad thing.

The natural world will survive it all of course, with some high-profile losers like polar bears but also some winners.

In Britain, the generally rising temperatures are causing some northern, cold-loving species to retreat and decline, but some southern softies are doing the opposite and moving up into Yorkshire.

I had firsthand experience of this last week when a very unexpected animal turned up in my back garden. We have a bush inherited from the previous owner of our house which, I am reliably informed by my horticulturally inclined wife, is a shiny cotoneaster.

I know it as the “buzzy bush” because at this time of year when its flowers are out, the incredible numbers of bees, wasps and flies attracted by the nectar available produce a constant hum of noise which is audible from the other end of the garden.

I can happily spend long periods of time on warm, summer days watching the busy comings and going is of various species of bumblebees, carder bees, hover-flies and wasps as they flit from flower to flower.

I was doing just that recently when a huge wasp appeared on the scene. Not only was it twice the size of a common wasp, it was a slightly different colour as well with a distinctly reddish-orange head and thorax.

Having seen very similar creatures while holidaying in Spain, I suspected that I was looking at a hornet but some further research was required.

According to the literature there were two possibilities for a wasp of that size - it could be a European hornet (native to the UK) or an invasive Asian hornet.

After examining the photos that I managed to take, the red colour of its thorax and the lack of much black on its abdomen confirmed my hornet as European.

I was surprised as my impression was that hornets were confined to southern England and, sure enough, the internet declared that they were, “...fairly common in the south of the country up to South Yorkshire”, but with the telling phrase, “...they seem to be spreading northwards”. It would seem that they are indeed spreading and have now reached Ryedale.

When I excitedly passed on my discovery to friends and family, it has to be said that not all their reactions were positive.

It seems that the word “hornet” instils the same irrational fear and horror as “wolf”, “snake” or “shark”. Hornets may be twice the size of your average wasp and with a sting to match but they are apparently much less aggressive - my garden individual certainly seemed very placid despite the close proximity of my camera and face.

Recent news stories, admittedly mainly about the invasive Asian hornet, haven’t helped the neurosis situation either.

Most of the reports are outrageously sensationalised and some are downright wrong – I don’t need to mention the names of the national newspapers concerned as I’m sure you can guess which they are.

For the record, Asian hornets are not “giant” – they are actually slightly smaller than our own hornets. Neither are they any more “deadly” than a wasp – the only way they are capable of “killing with one sting” is if the unfortunate victim had an allergy to the venom.

What scientists are genuinely concerned about is that Asian hornets prey on honeybees and our domesticated honey producers are under enough pressure already from pesticides and disease without the grief of having new predators raid their hives.

The Environment Agency is very keen to know about new sightings so if you have any suspicions about the wasps in your garden then go online at, search for Asian hornets and follow the reporting instructions.