People will be able to use the free app - called Asian Hornet Watch - to report possible sightings of the invasive species and send pictures of suspect insects to the National Bee Unit.
Biosecurity Minister Lord Gardiner said: "This innovative new app is designed to be easy to use and allows people to report quickly any possible sightings of Asian hornets, which will help us to halt their spread. This invasive species poses a threat to our native honey bees and we must do all we can to encourage vigilance - this new technology will advance this."
The interactive app, developed by the Great Britain Non-native Species Secretariat and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, will also make it easier for people to judge whether an insect may actually be an Asian hornet; with pictures available of other insects that it could be confused with and information about their size, appearance and the times of year they are most likely to be spotted.
If there is a sighting of the Asian hornet, the government’s protocol for eradicating the species will begin. This was the case in Gloucestershire last autumn, when bee inspectors found an Asian hornet nest.
There are fears the pest could reappear this spring, so members of the public are being urged to report any sightings to help inspectors to intervene. Asian hornets can be distinguished from their native counterparts by their abdomens, which are entirely dark except for a single band of yellow – native hornets’ abdomens are predominantly yellow.
Martin Smith, public affairs manager at the British Beekeepers’ Association, said: "This new app launched today by Defra is a welcome addition to current reporting methods that have enabled beekeepers and members of the public to report possible sightings. The key to containment is catching outbreaks as early as possible and allowing fast tracking of the insects back to their nest. We will certainly be encouraging all our 25,000 beekeepers to install the app and use it if they see what might be an Asian hornet near their hives."
Asian hornets arrived in France in 2004 and have since spread across large areas of Western Europe. It was discovered for the first time in the British Isles in Jersey and Alderney last summer.