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.
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 has spread across France and although arrival in Britain was not a forgone conclusion, two nests were found in October 2021 in Hampshire and Berkshire and destroyed. In April 2022 a single hornet was captured at Felixstowe. The two late season nests illustrate how “under the radar” these hornets can be as neither nest was known about until the capture of an individual hornet, followed by flight tracking, back to the nest by National Bee Unit inspectors.
Think you have seen an Asian Hornet?
For information on how to identify Asian Hornets take a look at the BBKA website To report any sightings, or suspected sightings you can do so via this webpage or via the Asian Hornet Watch app
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