Asian Hornet
Vespa velutina

Pest: Predator of the honeybee

The Asian Hornet is a ferocious predator of insects and bees and was accidentally introduced into France during 2004.  It has since spread to most of Western Europe causing devastation to the insect and bee populations.

The United Kingdom is on Red Alert expecting an imminent incursion from this predator and authorities will be doing everything in their power to contain and eradicate this serious threat to our insects and biodiversity.

These images are to help in the identification of this predator.  Although not mandatory, sightings must be reported in order to prevent the spread of new queens in the autumn.

In the fight against further incursions and spread of this pest, the Asian Hornet Action Team (AHAT) website has been created.  The AHAT site contains a wealth of valuable information for beekeepers and the public alike.  You can also download a Fact Sheet from the National Bee Unit here.  You can also download the free Asian Hornet Watch app for iOS and Android.  This app contains lots of information to help in the identification of this and other insects.

If you think you've spotted one of these insects, you should send a picture to alertnonnative@ceh.ac.uk for confirmation or use the Asian Hornet Watch app to report it.

Remember this:  If this insect is allowed to settle in the UK, many of our native insects will be hunted and predated upon, eventually to the point of extinction.  That will alter the biodiversity and allow other bugs and pests to proliferate. 

It is the responsibility of all of us to prevent this and ensure it doesn't happen.

Identification features ...

1:  Size

The European hornet is larger than the Asian hornet at 25-35mm and has very distinct marking on the abdomen.  They are less aggressive to us humans than wasps are and are often referred to as "gentle giants".

They are very wasp-like in appearance and make nests in dark places.  They also fly at night and have a colony strength of around 700 by the autumn.

The Asian hornet measures in at around 24mm (queens can be 30mm in the autumn).  Whilst it can be seen from these two images that there are similarities between the two hornets, there are distinct identifiable features between the two species.

This hornet usually builds it's nest high in a tree and hidden from view by the tree canopy.  The nest can be 1 meter in diameter and may hold more than 10,000 individuals.

2:  Yellow legs

The upper section of the Asian hornet's legs are dark brown whilst the lower half are yellow.  The legs are also covered with barbs that prevent its prey from escaping capture.

In some parts of the world, they are known as the "yellow legged hornet".

3:  4th Abdominal Segment

With the exception of the 4th segment, each segment of the abdomen is dark brown/black with a narrow yellow/orange band at the rear of the segment.  The 4th segment is completely yellow/orange.

For comparison, the European hornet has predominately yellow segments with black markings.

4:  Black Velvety Body

The thorax of the Asian hornet (the part with the wings attached) is very dark and velvety in appearance

5:  Orange Face

The face of the Asian Hornet is very yellowy orange with distinctive large brown eyes.

 

Video of the Asian Hornet in action ...