As well as the current pests and disease problems beekeepers have to contend with, there are still further potential threats on the horizon to be aware of, for example species of Asian Hornet. The recent arrival into France of one of these invasive predatory hornets Vespa velutina nigrithorax is a case in point. It was confirmed for the first time in Lot-et-Garonne in the South West in 2005, thought to have been imported in a consignment of pottery from China. It quickly established and has spread very quickly to many areas of France where it is reported to be causing many problems for both beekeepers and biodiversity in the country. The hornet can predate on colonies, causing significant harm. All beekeepers should be on the look out for this hornet. Vespa velutina is smaller than our own native European hornet Vespa crabro (see the information sheets that should help with identification). Vespa velutina should not confused with the Giant Asian hornet, sometimes referred to as the "Japanese hornet" Vespa mandarinia.
To protect bees from invasive threats it is important for all beekeepers in England, Scotland and Wales to sign up to BeeBase.
If you think you have seen an Asian hornet, please notify the GB Non Native Species Secratariat alert email address at immediately.
You can also send a suspect sample to the NBU laboratory for examination if possible. Use a suitable sturdy container (cardboard rather than plastic) and provide as much detail as possible about the hornet and where you found it. See 'How to Send Samples into the Laboratory' page. Digital photographs are also very useful to help with identification.
The message to Beekeepers from the NBU is as follows:
There are a number of links to useful information on the hornet, plus details of how to distinguish between the native hornet Vespa crabro and Vespa velutina. Although they are a similar size, a very distinguishing characteristic between the two is the dark brown thorax, hence the name "nigrithorax".
In the event that Asian hornets arrive in GB:
Guidance notes for beekeepers are available here.
BeeCraft magazine published a detailed article covering the lifespan, habitat and spread of the Asian hornet through France. Please see the article 'Vespa velutina – The Asian Hornet' which also covers the impact on agriculture and honey bees. Follow-up articles have been produced in September and October 2011. These can be viewed here. Thanks to Bee Craft for allowing us to provide this article.
Biologist Magazine published an article in May 2009 'A foreigner in France: the Asian hornet' written by Marie-Pierre Chauzat of the French Food Safety Agency and Stephen Martin from the University of Sheffield. We thank the authors for allowing us to attach this piece.
There is also an article in 'Aliens- The Invasive Species Bulletin' (Issue No 31, 2011) titled: Monitoring and control modalities of a honeybee predator, the yellow-legged hornet Vespa veluntina nigrithorax (Hymenoptera: Vespidae)
An information sheet about the Asian hornet can be viewed here.
Details about Vespa crabro, the hornet commonly found in the UK, can be viewed here. (For useful advice on the conservation of bees, wasps and ants within Great Britain and Ireland, visit Hymettus Ltd. The national society dedicated to studying and recording bees, wasps & ants (aculeate Hymenoptera) in Britain & Ireland is BWARS).
Further details on Asian hornets can be viewed on 'Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel' the website for National Inventory of Natural Heritage in France. A translation of the article is available here.
The European And Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization (EPPO) refer to Vespa velutina in the Reporting Service on Pests and Diseases, Chapter 197: A new invasive alien species found in France
Also of interest may be the French article 'La découverte du Frelon asiatique Vespa velutina, en France' (The discovery of the Asian hornet Vespa velutina in France) written by Claire Villemant and R Jean Haxaire from the French National Museum of Natural History and R Jean-Claude Streito from the French National Laboratory of Plant Protection - Entomology Unit.
The Great Britain Non-Native Species Secretariat website provides a great deal of information about invasive non-native species, including this Asian hornet. The wesbite covers the wide ranging work that is being done to tackle invasive species across Great Britain and provides tools to facilitate those working in this area.
All Vespa related photographs are copyright and courtesy of Jean Haxaire. Additional photographs in the Image gallery are courtesy of Marie-Pierre Chauzat (ANSES), and Jean Haxaire (Paris Natural History Museum).
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