Vita Bee Health Global Honeybee Health Experts

Those invading hornets

The media and others have been having a difficult time talking about hornets and showing the correct photo ID. It’s not that surprising because they are new insects come from other lands – and picture editors seldom sit beside the reporters. Here’s a quick referesher on some of the hornets.

Vespa crabro aka European hornet

Native across much of Europe and introduced to North America in about 1840, Vespa crabro is Europe’s largest native hornet. It is very distinctive because of its size and flash of yellow as it passes but it’s not seen very often (in Britain). It occasionally takes a bee or two but hardly ever poses a serious threat to honey bee colonies. (In contrast the common wasp [the yellow jacket in North America], Vespula spp., is much smaller, more numerous and sometimes attacks and destroy weak honey bee colonies.)

Vespa crabro workers c25mm long

Vespa crabro (courtesy AfroBrazilian)

Vespa velutina aka Asian hornet, yellow-legged hornet

Velutina is the hornet that arrived in pottery near Bordeaux in 2004 and has since spread at an alarming speed throughout France, around the north of Spain into coastal Portugal, into Italy, Germany and now seems to have been able to become established in the southern Netherlands. The tale of the fight back by the residents of the Channel Island of Jersey has become something of a legend on Facebook.

Velutina is now well established in parts of north-west Europe and eradication is deemed impossible, though many attempt to stop its spread into new territories.

Vespa velutina, up to 25mm in length (courtesy NBU)

Vespa mandarinia aka giant Asian hornet, murder hornet

Mandarinia is the one that the American media has delighted in dubbing the murder hornet – and British picture editors have been googling Asian hornet and, thinking they’ve found it, published an incorrect photo. It goes under various other names including the northern giant hornet and the Asian giant hornet. Whatever its name, it does look scary, as do its nest removers.

Vespa mandarinia nest removers, courtesy Washington State Dept of Agriculture

Vespa mandarinia is native to south and east Asia and was seen in the USA’s Pacific North West in 2019 and then in and Canada’s British Columbia. Nests were found and destroyed in 2021, but in 2022 there were no confirmed sightings and optimistic hopes that it may have been eradicated.

Vespa orientalis aka the Oriental hornet

Native to south-west Asia, Vespa orientalis has been spreading across Italy and was seen in Marseilles, France, in 2021 and Barcelona, Spain in 2022. On Malta, where it is now regarded as native, reports say it wiped out 70% of the island’s honey bee colonies. Vespa orientalis feeds on adult honey bees and larvae and plunders nests.

Vespa orientalis 25-35mm long


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