The asian hornet (Vespa Velutina)
The native european hornet (Vespa Crabro)

The asian hornet: an invasive predator of bees

In 2004, the asian hornet (Vespa Velutina) which is native to parts of India, China, Nepal and South East Asia was accidently introduced to the Bordeaux region of France, from where it has spread throughout France, northern Spain and Portugal, Belgium, parts of Italy and the Channel Islands. It is a voracious predator of honeybees and other insects and can destroy colonies of bees which are weak or unprotected. Mainland Britain has a sea barrier against invasion by these insects, but every year some get through, probably in cross channel freight, and start to breed. Up until now we believe that nests have all been destroyed before they can release a new generation of queens, but it is only a matter of time before one slips through the net. Once established, the continental experience shows that eradication would be nearly impossible.

How to recognise asian hornets

The asian hornet is significantly smaller than the European hornet. Typically, queens are 30 mm (1.2 in) in length, and males about 24 mm (0.95 in). Workers measure about 20 mm (0.80 in) in length. The species has distinctive yellow tarsi (legs). The thorax is a velvety brown or black with a brown abdomen. Each abdominal segment has a narrow posterior yellow border, except for the fourth segment, which is orange. The head is black and the face yellow.

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What it is not

Unfortunately, a lot of ill-informed coverage in the local and national press has featured pictures of the wrong insect. The giant asian hornet (Vespa Mandarinia) has been accidently introduced to the American North West, and has generated a lot of coverage there, but in Europe we are not in imminent danger from this hornet. This hasn't stopped jouralists from taking stock photos of these much larger predators and posting them in newspapers and on websites.

The giant asian hornet (Vespa Mandarinia) - it's not this one!

What to do if you think you have seen one

  • Take a photo of the nest, and if possible, the hornet
  • Report it to
  • Download the official ASIAN HORNET WATCH app for Apple and Android (where you can also report the finding).
  • Put out hornet traps such as this one from Thornes

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More information and contacts

This document from the BBKA gives more detailed information along with links to a lot of concerned organisations.