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Asian hornet

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is a far eastern and south Asian species accidentally introduced into France from China and now spreading over the European mainland.

It is a pest of honey bee hives as it evolved in areas where honey bees occur in the wild and has a natural liking for them – more so than our native hornet.

Pinned male Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) (C) Steven Falk

Pinned male Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) (C) Steven Falk

There are three species of hornet found in Europe. Oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis) , European hornet (Vespa crabro) and Asian hornet (Vespa velutina).

It is not the same as the ‘Giant Asian hornet’ which it has been confused with in some articles. The Giant Asian hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is usually known as the Mandarin hornet and does not occur in Europe. The Asian hornet is only up to 3cm in length and is actually smaller than the European hornet (Vespa crabro) which is native to the UK.

Any bee or wasp can sting and the Asian hornet sting is no more painful than that of any UK species. Stings subside after a few hours, although they are more serious for those who are allergic.

The Asian hornet is currently spreading across France and fears are that it could arrive in Britain although this is not a forgone conclusion, and if it does, it will be through a fertilised queen being physically bought over (probably when hibernating in cargo), it is very unlikely that they could fly across the Channel as some reports have suggested.

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