The yellow-legged Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is not native to the UK. It is a potential threat to many insect species including pollinators such as bees. Asian hornets are a serious threat to honey bees.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
The Asian hornet is not like our native European hornet but it is easy to mistake the two. It is also often mistaken for the Asian Giant hornet, a species recently introduced to the United States. Both species may be dubbed the “murder hornet” for their ability to wipe out a hive of honey bees or, indeed, for their ability to fatally sting humans. However, the overwhelming majority of stings will result in moderate but short-term pain, redness and itchiness.
Asian hornet abdomen almost entirely dark except for 4th abdominal section
The Asian Hornet is a hornet of Asian origin which is a generalist predator of medium and large sized insects, and scavenger of vertebrate carrion. It has recently been spreading in Asia (it is an invasive species in South Korea and Japan), and the subspecies V. v. nigrithorax has been accidentally introduced to Europe where it was first recorded from southern France in 2005. Since then it has been found in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Italy, the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, the Channel Islands and the Balearic Islands.
This invasive species threatens honey production and native pollinating insects. It may be introduced and transported accidentally with soil associated with plants, garden furniture and pots, timber, vegetables, camping equipment, etc.
Most of the 22 Vespa hornet species originate in Asia while only a few have extended their geographical range to include the Philippines and New Guinea. Only two species are native to Europe: the European hornet, Vespa crabro Linnaeus (1758) and the oriental hornet Vespa orientalis Linnaeus (1771)
Like other social wasps, hornets build communal nests by chewing wood to make a papery pulp. Each nest has one queen, which lays eggs and is attended by workers that, while genetically female, cannot lay fertile eggs. Most species make exposed nests in trees and shrubs, but some (such as Vespa orientalis) build their nests underground or in other cavities. In the tropics, these nests may last year-round, but in temperate areas, the nest dies over the winter, with lone queens hibernating in leaf litter or other insulative material until the spring.
Male hornets are docile and do not have stingers.