Vespa velutina, the yellow legged hornet, commonly known as the Asian hornet, is native to Asia and was confirmed for the first time in Lot-et-Garonne in the South West of France in 2004. It was thought to have been imported in a consignment of pottery from China and it quickly established and spread to many regions of France. The hornet preys on honeybees, Apis mellifera and disrupts the ecological role which it provides and damages commercial beekeeping activities. It has also altered the biodiversity in regions of France where it is present and can be a health risk to those who have allergies to hornet or wasp stings.
In 2016, the Asian hornet was discovered in the UK for the first time, in Tetbury. After 10 days of intensive searching, the nest was found and later destroyed and on the same day, a single hornet was discovered in a bait trap in North Somerset. Genetic analysis has confirmed that the hornet nest found in Tetbury and the dead hornet found in North Somerset were of the same genetic population (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) as those which came from Eastern China to France. Although we cannot rule out the hornet arriving directly from the same area in China, we believe this is highly unlikely.</p> <p> The following year, in 2017, another Asian hornet nest was discovered in Woolacombe by a vigilant beekeeper who reported seeing Asian hornets hawking and hunting in his apiary. Upon confirmation of the hornet, our contingency plan was again activated and a nest discovered and destroyed. No other Asian hornets have been seen in the area.
The Asian hornet is smaller than our native hornet, with adult workers measuring from 25mm in length and queens measuring 30mm. It's abdomen is mostly black except for it's fourth abdominal segment which is a yellow band located towards the rear. It has characteristical yellow legs which accounts for why it is often called the yellow legged hornet and it's face is orange with two brownish red compound eyes.
Where to report sightings
If you think you have seen an Asian hornet, please notify the Great British Non Native Species Secretariat (NNSS) immediately. In the first instance sightings should be reported through the free Asian Hornet Watch App, available for Android and Iphone.
Other methods of reporting the hornet also include using the NNSS online notification form. Finally, you can send any suspect sightings to the Non Native Species email address firstname.lastname@example.org . Where possible, a photo, the location of the sighting and a description of the insect seen should be included.
If you would like to know more about the Asian hornet or any other Invasive Species, the NNSS website provides a great deal of information about the wide ranging work that is being done to tackle invasive species and tools to facilitate those working in this area.
It is also important that beekeepers sign up to BeeBase. In the event that the Asian hornet (or any other exotic threat to honeybee colonies) arrives here, efforts to contain it will be seriously jeopardised if we don’t know where vulnerable apiaries are located.
For more information on the Asian Hornet –