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Asian hornet

The Asian hornet was confirmed for the first time in Lot-et-Garonne in the South West of France in 2005. It was thought to have been imported in a consignment of pottery from China and it quickly established and spread to many areas of France. 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

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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:

  • Monitoring for arrival is strongly encouraged throughout the UK, but especially in areas where likelihood of arrival is considered to be highest (S & SE England);
  • Make sure you know how to recognise Asian hornets – a very helpful ID sheet can be downloaded here or you can visit the NNSS website
  • Know where to report sightings:
  • Beekeepers and other members of the public should consider hanging hornet traps;
  • Click here to see a guidance note on a home-made trap used in France and here for a simplified version using materials readily available in the UK. Whichever trap design you may choose, please remember that it is very important that damage to native wasps, hornets and any other insects is kept to an absolute minimum.
  • Spring trapping works! - Information from beekeepers in France, who are having to control hornet numbers, show that in areas where traps are deployed in springtime, nest numbers are reduced by > 90% . In the event that Asian hornets become established here, springtime trapping will thus be a very useful management tool
  • If you are participating in the Sentinel Apiary programme (i.e. a beekeeper who monitors your colonies for exotic pest threats to honey bees on behalf of the NBU at Fera), you can download a Guidance Note about Asian hornet monitoring here
  • Sign up to BeeBase (see above) – This  is always important, but in the event that the Asian hornet (or any other exotic threat to honey bee colonies) arrives here, efforts to contain it will be seriously jeopardised if we don’t know where vulnerable apiaries are located

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".

To help distinguish between the many species of Vespa species, the French Museum of Natrual History have produced an Identification Information Sheet

In the event that Asian hornets arrive in GB:

  • A Response Plan for dealing with the Asian hornet has been produced;
  • Developed by the Food and Environment Research Agency (Bee Health Policy and the NBU), in consultation with Defra (Non Native Species Policy, and its Non Native Species Secretariat, the Response Plan was finalised in April 2012;
  • You can view the full Response Plan here
  • Its objectives are:
    - Early detection;
    - Interception and prevention of establishment;
    - Nest destruction to eradicate localised outbreaks (if within a limited geographical area or areas);
    - Development of longer term management plans where eradication is no longer possible due to the extent and number of outbreaks;
    - Provision of advice to beekeepers and all other stakeholders.

Guidance notes for beekeepers is 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).

YouTube Videos

YouTube Videos

The Animal and Plant Health Agency has set up a YouTube channel where the National Bee Unit has shared videos of our experience encountering the Asian Hornet in Andernos-les-Bains, South West France.

The YouTube channel can be found here: