Asian Hornet

Have you seen an Asian Hornet?

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is a notifiable species by law. Sightings of the Asian Hornet should be reported through the Asian Hornet Watch app, through an online form or emailed to the Non-Native Species Secretariat with a photograph and location details.

The yellow-legged Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is not native to the UK. The potential establishment of Asian hornets in Britain is a serious concern for our environment, our native bee populations, and the safety of our communities. Vigilance and responsible actions from within the beekeeping community, as well as non-beekeepers, can help mitigate this threat.

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

  • Asian hornet has yellow legs
  • Asian hornet’s head is dark from above, yellow from the front
  • Asian hornet has dark coloured antennae
  • Asian hornet has dark brown/black abdomen with a yellow/orange band on 4th segment

Asian hornet abdomen almost entirely dark except for 4th abdominal section

European Hornet

  • European hornet has red legs
  • European hornet’s head is yellow from above and from the front
  • European hornet has red antennae
  • European hornet has a yellow abdomen marked with brown on the upper part

Asian Hornets in Britain

The Asian hornet (Vespa velutina), or yellow-legged hornet, is native to Asia and was confirmed for the first time in Lot-et-Garonne in the southwest of France in 2004. It was thought to have been imported in a consignment of pottery from China and quickly established and spread to many regions of France. The Asian hornet preys on honey bees (Apis mellifera) and other insects.

In 2016, the Asian hornet was discovered in the UK for the first time, in Tetbury. After 10 days of intensive searching, the nest was found and destroyed. On the same day, a single hornet was discovered in a bait trap in North Somerset. Genetic analysis confirmed that the hornet nest found in Tetbury and the dead hornet found in North Somerset were of the same genetic population (Vespa velutina nigrithorax) as those which came from Eastern China to France.

In September 2017, an Asian hornet was identified in an apiary in Woolacombe, Devon. Ten days later, the nest was found and destroyed.

There were no more confirmed sightings until April 2018, in the Bury area of Lancashire. A member of the public found the hornet on a cauliflower. The Asian hornet was traced back to Boston, Lincolnshire. The Asian hornet was likely to be a queen at that time of year and was never found. The NBU is hoping that the queen had been brought into the UK rather than being a mated overwintered queen that was already here.

Advice to beekeepers:

Action you can take now:

    • Make sure you can recognize an Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) and know the differences between the Asian hornet and the European hornet (Vespa crabro).
    • Know the life cycle of the Asian hornet.
    • Download a NNSS Asian hornet ID sheet (“The Lid”) and laminate it if possible. Pin it to the inside roof of one of your hives.
    • Know your apiary GPS location.
    • Download the smartphone Asian Hornet Watch app (http://www.nonnativespecies.org/home/index.cfm).
    • Have easy access to nets, jars with lids, binoculars. Prae Wood and Oaklands teaching apiaries have AHAT boxes containing these items. For guidance on collecting evidence.
    • Look for Asian hornet nests.
    • Liaise with neighboring beekeepers.

Collecting Evidence:

  • The NBU will not take any action until evidence of the Asian hornet has been produced – either a photograph or a sample. It is imperative that beekeepers can positively identify an Asian hornet. Please get to know what it looks like.
  • Asian hornets start predating on honey bees in July-September. Be vigilant!
  • According to some sources, it is easier to collect a sample than obtain a suitable photograph.
  • It is easier and safer to work in pairs.
  • If there is more than one hornet predating, try videoing them.
  • Nets and fly swats are useful for catching them.
  • With all this advice, caution must be stressed. Do not put yourself or anybody else at risk. If in doubt, contact AHAT Coordinator, your AHAT contact at Prae Wood or Oaklands if you suspect Asian hornet presence.

For more information on collecting samples, visit http://ahat.org.uk/sample-collection/.

Asian Hornet Gallery

Vespa velutina
Hymenoptera: Vespidae

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.