Asian Hornet

Fast Facts

Latin name: Vespa velutina

Notable feature: Asian Hornets have yellow at the end of their legs and are dark in colour across their thorax and abdomen except for a yellow/orange band on the 4th segment.

Conservation Status: Not Evaluated

Where in the UK: Invasive non-native species to the UK. The first sighting was in Tetbury, Gloucestershire in 2016. In 2023, 72 nests were found in 56 locations in the UK.

Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) © John De Carteret

The Asian ‘Yellow-legged’ Hornet (Vespa velutina) is a far eastern and south Asian species that was accidentally introduced into France from China around 2004. The hornet has since spread across many parts of Western Europe and can be found in 12 countries, including the UK.

They have a dark brown/black, velvety thorax with a dark abdomen except from the yellow/orange band on the 4th segment and legs yellow tipped. They also have dark antennae, and their head is dark from above but orange from the front.

Learn more about the differences between the Asian Hornet and the European Hornet (Vespa cabro) on our Invasive Species Hub.

  • Size: Queens up to 30mm (3cm). Workers up to 25mm (2.5cm).
  • Life span: Similar to other hornet species. Queens have an annual lifecycle. Workers tend to live around a few months. Drones until mating is completed.
  • Diet: Carnivorous. The Asian Hornet is a voracious predator and poses a significant threat to native insect species and honeybees.
  • Reproduction: Similar to other hornet species, in that a fertile queen hornet will hibernate over winter and emerge as temperatures rise in the Spring. They begin to build a nest to lay worker eggs in initially. Once the workers have hatched and reached maturity, the queen will dedicate herself to laying eggs whilst they take over care and construction of the nest. Around September, the queen will lay eggs that develop into males (drones) and new queens. She will die shortly after. The new queens and drones’ mate during a nuptial flight, after which the males die, and the new queens seek out places to hibernate until the following Spring, when they will emerge to find their nests and continue the cycle. The workers remain in the nest and will die off in the cooler temperatures of Winter. Abandoned nests are not reused.
  • When to see: May – November. Not active at night. If you see an Asian Hornet, you must report it to help with eradication efforts.
  • Population Trend: Whilst still rare, the Asian Hornet’s populations are increasing in the UK and Europe.
  • Threats: The Asian Hornet has no natural predators in this region of the world, which enables them to establish populations in places like France and the UK. Without eradication efforts, Asian Hornets would continue to spread unchecked which would have serious consequences for our biodiversity, as has already been demonstrated in France.
  • Fun (?) Fact: Prey species in their natural range, such as the Eastern Honeybee (Apis cerana), have developed a defense mechanism against Asian Hornet attacks called heat-balling. This tactic involves swarming the nest invader and buzzing to generate heat, raising the temperature so much that the hornet dies. This defense tactic can come at a price for the honeybees however, with reduced foraging rates.

How you can help:

To help with eradication efforts, all sightings of Asian Hornet should be reported, complete with an image if possible. Please keep your distance and avoid disturbing any hornets or hornet nests you come across.

For more information, including how to identify Asian Hornets, please visit the National Bee Unit (NBU) Website.

You can report any sightings, or suspected sightings, via this webpage or via the Asian Hornet Watch app on Android or iPhone. The National Bee Unit (NBU) will follow up on reports and destroy their nests if a positive ID is made.

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