Asian Hornet – Vespula velutina – Threat to Honey Bees

The Asian hornet problem
The Asian Hornet, Vespa velutina, is an invading pest that was accidentally imported into France from S E Asia. It spread through France and has already been found in the UK.

V. velutina is highly effective predator of insects, including honey bees and other beneficial species, with each Asian hornet able to kill up to 50 honey bees per day. With up to 6,000 Asian hornets per nest, a group of them can make serious inroads into and even destroy a bee colony in short order.

Honey bees are already under stress from imported parasites such as the Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) and from environmental hazards such as pesticides and habitat loss. Honey bees in S E Asia have developed strategies to combat V. velutina, such as balling them which causes them to overheat and die. In the UK, they have no such defences.

Asian hornet; Drance

So the B & LBKA is committed to helping nationwide efforts to resist the entry of this deadly pest to these shores, and to aiding the destruction of its nests wherever they are found.

Note: V. velutina is not aggressive to humans, and is not active at night.

What can you do?
Whether you are a beekeeper or not, you can help. The National Bee Unit, on behalf of the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), can destroy Asian hornet nests but they need our help to spot and identify the insect.

Here’s a five-point action plan

  1. Be vigilant.
  2. If you see an insect looking like a large wasp, up to 3cm long, take a closer look. If it has a yellow face, yellow lower legs and a black abdomen with a single orange/yellow strip on the fourth segment, it is probably an Asian hornet. There is an Asian hornet app available to download which can help with identification.
  3. If you can, photograph it.
  4. If it is safe to do so, capture it by placing a jam jar or similar over it, and seal it in. Put it in the freezer for 12 hours to kill it. Be aware that it is illegal to release an invasive species such as V. velutina back into the wild.
  5. Report any sightings to the B & L BKA Asian Hornet Action Team Co-ordinator, Manek Dubash.