Invasive non-native Asian hornets ( Vespa velutina) have been sighted in the UK since 2016. It is important to be able to distinguish them from our native Eurpoean hornets ( Vespa crabro).
According to Jess Chappell from the RSPB’s nature policy team, these are the distinguishing features to look out for:-
Our native European hornet has a brown and yellow striped abdomen and an orangey brown thorax and head. The Asian hornet has a black thorax, an orangey brown head and a mostly dark abdomen with a yellow/orange 4th abdominal segment.
The legs of European hornets are dark but the Asian hornets have bright yellow tips to their legs
Asian hornets are smaller than European hornets (European queens up to 35mm; Asian queens up to 30mm)
Asian hornets are day-flying insects and are not active at night whereas our native European hornets are active at night.
The invasive non-native Asian hornet is an aggressive predator of pollinating insects, including honeybees and wasps. It does not pose any greater risk to humans than our native hornets or bees but we are advised not to disturb a suspected nest . It was first found in France in 2004 and subsequently found in Jersey. It is now on the UK mainland and was first sighted in Gloucester and Somerset in September 2016: the latest sighting was in October 2019 in Dorset.
The UK government is keen to stop this non-native hornet becoming established in the UK. If established it could cause significant losses to bee colonies and potentially other native pollinating insects. We are asked to report any suspected sightings. New queens emerge from hibernation in February so this will be the time to be vigilant. The hornets are active from February to November.
Sightings should be reported to the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology at firstname.lastname@example.org with location details and a photo if possible. Or fill out the report form on their website.
The NNSS (the Non-native Species secretariat) has downloadable information sheets on their website www.nonnativespecies.org
The British Beekeepers Association also has information and an Asian Hornet incursion map on www.bbka.org.uk/asian-hornet-incursion-map