The Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina) is the invasive non-native species to look out for at the moment. It arrived in Britain, the first sighting being in Tetbury, last autumn, and at that time the hornets nests found in that area were successfully destroyed, and it is hoped that the population found last year has been eradicated. However, this does not mean the war is over, even though that small battle was won. Experts from the National Bee Unit believe that it is almost inevitable that there will be another invasion of Asian Hornets this year, and are asking the public to be vigilant.
The Asian Hornet originates from the area bordered by Northern India and China, and was first discovered in France in 2005, thought to have been transported in pottery that was imported from China. The climate in the hornets native range is similar to that in Southern Europe, and may be the reason why is has spread rapidly.
The Asian Hornet can potentially be a threat to people if they sting, but whilst the stings are painful, the hornets are not considered aggressive to people. They main threat these invasive insects pose is to bees. They predate social wasps and honeybees, and have been observed hovering over the entrance to bee hives waiting to charge and catch honeybees laden with pollen and nectar. They eat the majority of the honeybee, and pulp the rest for larval food in the hornets own nest. This is not good news for the honeybee, which is already under threat due to habitat loss and increase in intensive agricultural practices. Asian Hornets also consume a wide variety of spiders and other insect prey.
You can download a fact sheet which will enable you to identify the Asian Hornet here.
Advice for Beekeepers regarding this species can be found on BeeBase.
If you think you have seen an Asian Hornet please report your sighting here.