The population of oriental hornets is on the rise in Malta, with a pest control expert raising the alarm about what he describes as “the most dangerous terrestrial species on the Maltese islands”.

Arnold Sciberras gets called out to deal with hornet infestations 12 to 15 times a day, and last year he removed 4,000 hornet nests from homes.

“We’ve been dealing with the hornet problem for eight years now and it’s always been increasing,” he told Times of Malta.

He says the artificial habitat that has been created on the island is ideal for hornet infestation.

“Concrete jungles with lots of nooks in the brick buildings are what the hornets seek out to build their nests.

“And while its natural prey has decreased, we continue to sustain the hornets with our garbage, especially through cat food that is left out for stray animals and not cleaned up. These conditions are assisting the population to grow in quite large amounts.”

An omnivore by nature, the hornet can get quite aggressive when it perceives something to be a threat to its nest. It can kill grasshoppers and bees, and has had a negative impact on local apiculture, he said.

Its sting has been known to send people to hospital.

“I don’t want to alarm people but we should be cautious about it,” Sciberras said.

“Hornets in urban areas are constantly encountering humans, and although they do not attack without reason, if they feel provoked close to their heavily guarded nest, they will attack brutally.”

He knows from personal experience how painful their sting can be, having been attacked several times due to his work.

“People have been sent to hospital with severe injuries due to multiple stings. It’s basically the most dangerous terrestrial species on the Maltese islands.”

Should the authorities intervene?

“I think the problem should have been tackled nationwide from day one. I have spoken about it many times, but unfortunately it has fallen on deaf ears. I have to settle for educating the public for free on social media.”

There are steps people can take to avoid being injured by hornets.

“If you’re concerned, contact an expert and check how you can proof your house so that hornets are not attracted to your property.

“Avoid excess garbage, cat food or leaving any sort of wet food outside. You can also keep your garden in a certain way that won’t attract them.”

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