of the Villages

Asian Hornet

The Asian Hornet Threat

Asian hornets are an invasive, voracious predator of our pollinator insects including Honey Bees. Accidentally introduced into France in 2004, they have since spread Eastwards to Italy, South to Spain and Portugal and North to Germany Switzerland, Belgium, Holland and now, to the UK. 2023 saw a massive increase in the numbers of Asian Hornets throughout Europe and, in the UK, from a yearly average of 2-3 nests per year up to 2022, 2023 saw 78 nests recorded, mainly in the South-East. We fear numbers will inevitably increase and, if they become established in the UK, from experience on the continent, they will have a devastating impact on our insect population, and on biodiversity. The already fragile balance of the ecosystem will be upset and pollinator services disrupted with consequences for flowering plants, food crops, and for creatures further up the food chain. There is also a risk of injury to ourselves from stings as, when provoked, they attack ferociously.

But how do you identify them? :-

The Asian Hornet looks like a large black wasp with some distinguishing features:

  • a single yellow/orange band around its abdomen,
  • an orange face,
  • and yellow tipped legs.

Queens are up to 30mm long, and workers up to 25mm. They also have a deeper buzz than honey bees.

Although the yellow tipped legs are often cited as a main identification factor, these may be difficult to spot in flight and the thick, yellow\orange band on the abdomen is a better indicator.

When and where can they be found?

Asian Hornets are easiest to see around flowers, on over-ripe fruit, carrion, close to water and, unfortunately, around bee hives from late spring through to late Autumn.

In spring, Queen Asian Hornets are active from after the last frost and will be looking to create a Primary Nest. These are typically low down in sheltered places e.g. under eaves of houses, in sheds, perhaps near last year’s nest. The primary nest is off-white in colour, similar to a wasp’s nest, but smaller. They start the size of a golf ball and grow to the size of a small melon.

In early Summer the hornets build a secondary nest, which is far larger than the Primary Nest, and can be as large as 80 cm in height and 50 cm wide. These secondary nests are typically high up in trees, but increasingly below 5 metres in hedges, long grass and even in structures like buildings. It is often difficult to see these Secondary Nests until the leaves fall.

Can Asian Hornets sting?

They can and the sting is more toxic than a wasp sting. What’s more, they can sting repeatedly. Generally, away from the nest they are not aggressive but become highly defensive if the nest is threatened in which case they attack ferociously and en masse. Nests in hedges and long grass can be disturbed accidently whilst, for example hedge cutting, retrieving cricket balls, by dogs and by other outdoor activities etc. Sports people, walkers, hedge cutters, tree surgeons and the like are particularly vulnerable to being stung.

What, and How, to report after a suspected sighting

If you think you have spotted an Asian Hornet, please note its location, take a photo or better still make a video of it, if you can, and note the direction it flies off. Then report this to the Non-Native Species Secretariat {NNSS}. part of DEFRA.

To report a suspected sighting, there is an App, The Asian Hornet Watch App, which is available on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It offers a guide to identifying the insects as well as a means to report a sighting.

If the sighting is positive, further investigations by the Asian Hornet specialists will be triggered including tracking and tracing the nest and its eradication.


Warwick and Leamington Beekeers’ Association