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.