Asian Hornet – Vespa velutina

Asian Hornet – Vespa velutina

This is a guide for beekeeper’s around the world on the Asian Hornet (Vespa velutina). Describes method of attack on honeybee colonies, colony losses, lifecycle, identification,control methods, traps and nest destruction.

European honeybees, which can be found around the world, are not able to defend against this hornet. It arrived in France in 2005 and is expected imminently in the UK.  I’ll update this page when it’s landed.

Asian Hornet Eating Hoverfly
Asian Hornet Eating Hoverfly.
Source: BeeBase, Crown Copyright

Asian Hornet – Method Of Attack

Up to 50 Asian hornets wait in front of the hive, killing honeybees, decapitating them and stripping off their wings and legs before making off with the “meat ball” to their nest to feed their young.

As the attacks continue, the honeybee colony stops flying and consumes its own honey stores, which weakens the colony and leads to a hornet invasion whereby they take everything – brood and stores.

Asian Hornet Hawking A Beehive
Asian Hornet Hawking A Beehive
Source: National Bee Unit, Crown Copyright

Asian Hornet – Impact

I have read that some apiaries around Bordeaux have suffered up to 70 per cent colony losses in some seasons. I have not found comprehensive evidence of colony losses. [Grateful for any links.]

Asian Hornet – Identification

Please use the photos on this page and a further guide to which I have linked below.

Asian Hornet On Tree
Asian Hornet On Tree
Source: National Bee Unit, Crown Copyright
Asian Hornet Nest
Asian Hornet Nest
Source: National Bee Unit, Crown Copyright

European Hornet

Not to be confused with the European Hornet, which European honeybees can defend against.

European Hornet
European Hornet (abdominal markings)
Source: National Bee Unit, Crown Copyright

Asian Hornet – Lifecycle

  • End of winter or early spring – Queen starts egg laying and roughly shapes a nest. One queen creates one colony and dies at the end of the year. Nest grows to hold several thousand individuals. It can grows very large, more than half a metre in length
  • Workers live 30-55 days
  • End of summer – queen mating
  • Autumn to Winter – only the mated Queen survives

Asian Hornet & The UK

  1. At this stage the most important aspect is to be able to identify the Asian hornet (see guide above) and report it using this email ( Regular wasp traps can help trap the hornet.
  2. Sign up to Bee Base so you will be alerted to the arrival of the Asian Hornet in your area

Hornet Traps & Wasp Traps

When the hornet arrives, or if you already have hornets, you are going to need hornet traps. These will trap Asian and European hornets and wasps.

  1. Set up hornet traps in spring. Evidence from France show that in areas where traps are deployed in springtime, nest numbers are reduced by > 90%. The National Bee Unit has developed a guide on making simple hornet traps: Simple Asian Hornet Trap
  2. Also use hornet traps on the hive. Vita Europe sell a trap that replaces the solid floor and creates a side entrance. Predators enter through the unprotected side entrance, attracted by the natural scent and sound of the colony. Cone entrances prevent the invaders from leaving the ApiShield trap and die from dehydration. ApiShield Trap*.

Also – the impact on Honeybees can be limited by reducing the hive entrance to a narrow slit.

ApiShield Hornet Wasp Trap
ApiShield Hornet & Wasp Trap

* The ApiShield link was paid for.

Below is my hive with ApiShield.

Apishield Hornet Trap
Apishield Hornet Trap

Destroying Hornet Hives

Another way to reduce the Asian Hornet population in your area is to destroy their nests. This needs to be done when all the hornets have returned to their nest (i.e. not during the day). If the nest is destroyed during the day, returning hornets will then create new nests in the vicinity – i.e. you will have made the problem worse.

Asian Hornet – Video

This is the best video I could find of the Asian Hornet. It’s in Spanish but shows the hornet hawking the hive, in close up, the nest, etc.

Read More

These how-to guides are provided for general interest and information only.  No liability is accepted for any injury or loss arising out of the contents of these pages.

27 thoughts on “Asian Hornet – Vespa velutina”

  1. Thank’s for sharing our video. You’re lucky if the wasp has not yet come to the UK . Here we try to fight it with information and public awareness. Greetings from Galicia.

    1. Thanks for making contact Cesar and wishing you a Happy New Year for 2015.
      I have a few questions if you have the time:
      1. Has this Asian Hornet killed entire honeybee colonies in Spain?
      2. Do you have any statistics on how many honeybee colonies have been killed by the Asian Hornet or to what extent the colonies are weakened?
      3. How many Asian Hornet colonies do you have and what is the rate of increase?
      4. Do you think the Asian Hornet will thrive in the UK?
      5. What are the best defences against this hornet?
      Many thanks for your thoughts.

      1. My experience of Asian Hornet, I live by the river Sarthe( Hornets
        normally nest near water.) known fact.For two years the hornets have attacked my hive, I do have a reduced a
        entrance to my hive so no hornets can enter in the hive so they resort to hawking.
        The hornets seem to come at different times of day, as I as I sit very near my hive with a Badminton Racket to kill the hawking hornets, which are very easy to kill, however you must take away the dead hornets because they give off a smell which makes the other hornets to go into attack mode, meaning you when the next batch arrive.
        The other observation made because I visit my hive several time a day is when the Hornet attack (July/Aug/Sept/Oct,) is they visit the hive at different time of day, usually mid morning after the first set of bees
        are returning full with honey/pollen, and again later in the afternoon.
        The only thing which puzzles me is that t hey can be found much later in the evening, just hawking for the occasional late arrival.
        I just hope this helps, this summer I am making a wire frame to give my bee’s more protection, and giving me more time — I hope.
        A very frustrated Bee Keeper.

  2. Hi Roger. First of all, i’m not a beekeaper, i’m journalist. But i’ll try to answer your questions.

    #1 and 2: Yes. Especially during summer because it is the time when the wasp is raising and needs more protein intake . There are no statistics about how many hives have been destroyed by the Asian hornet, but in Galicia have been a lot of them. Asian wasp has spread throughout the northern Iberian Peninsula , from the Basque Country to Galicia.

    #3:It’s impossible to know exactly the number of colonies. Many breed in the forest and there is much neglected forest area. All that is known is that propagates at a speed close to 200 kilometers per year. One of the main problems is the bad practice of struggle. The nests are removed during the day and many workers are outside the nest. This causes the wasps create new queens and new colonies in several kilometers radius of the original nest.

    #4: I don’t think so. The wasp is well adapted to temperate climates and in the UK , fortunately, the weather does not seem to be suitable for them.

    #5: The only defense is detection and destruction of nests. In addition it is also important to protect the hives placing traps . They are built with a plastic bottle full of dark beer and white wine in equal parts. These traps are more effective between February and April, when the queens begin to form new colonies.

    Greetings from Galicia. And sorry for my google translator’s english.

  3. We have received about 380 reports of Asian Hornet this summer here in UK. I am on the verification team and I can state categorically that not a single specimen of V. velutina has actually been found here (yet)

  4. We share same problem. Don’t make the same mistakes. Spread information about this hornet and try to prevent it arriving in the UK.

  5. I am a bee-keeper in Galicia , northern spain although i,m englsh. The base trap sounds like a good idea but in practice i can’t see it being very productive or efective as the velutina captures the bees in flight,hawking,and very rarely atempts to enter the hive. Those that do are rapidly balled by numerous bees and killed tue to overheating.

    The best trap so far seams to be the empty plastic 2 litre bottle with the top cut off and reinserted , funnel like, using dark beer and white whine mix as bait, they are very fond of blueberry juice but its less available and more expensive. We change bait at about 7 – 10 day intervals depending on the weather and have been able to trap over 2000, yes 2000, in this period.

    Glad its not landed in UK, probably due to the british climate, but i think it will eventually especially in the south.

  6. I have four hives in my garden in Provence, and was one of the first to identify the arrival of this hornet in my area, the Var, last year. I have tried the bottle traps with limited success, a badminton racket with great success and satisfaction, but the numbers of hornets arriving does not seem to diminish. I tried the Apishield trap last year, and did not catch a single hornet, so seems a waste of money, 80 – 90 euro’s!
    I am crossing my fingers, but may have found a solution for a hobby beekeeper. I have been catching the hornets alive with a child’s fishing net, spraying them lightly with Fipronil, a cat/dog flea treatment, then releasing the hornet. They seem to fly straight back to the nest, and spread the poison through the colony. Towards the end of July, I caught and treated about 10 hornets, and within days the attacks completely stopped, only to re-appear 5 weeks later. But I am convinced this latest attack is from a different nest, as the released hornets fly off in a completely different direction. Worth a try.

    1. Hi Chris. Just read about Fipronil (wiki link provided). Sounds interesting … but very toxic (to bees, pondlife, etc). Do you trap the hornets and then feed it to them as bait so as to poison the rest of the colony?

      1. I just catch them in the net, hold the net on the ground, rim down, spray hornets through the mesh, and release.

    2. The racket works fine too, we put glue on the racket, the stuff you buy to trap mice/rats. That way they stick and you can cut the heads off, just a racket may get them anoyed if you don’t stun them properly

      1. The racket works by giving satisfaction to the beekeeper, but really does not significantly reduce size of hornet nest! If the Fipronil is a working solution, it does at least result in the death of the hornet colony.

        1. Fipronil is a slow acting poison. The half-life in soil is from 4 months to one year. That can cause lots of damage to other insects before it is nuetralized

          1. Yes, but like most beekeepers I am very environmentally conscious, and I do not use it indiscriminately, two small sprays direct on the hornet, which unfortunately does not have a half-life, and is causing enormous damage to the bee population. Possible very limited side effect damage to other insects is, in my opinion, a price worth paying.

  7. We had a nest in a tree in our garden and specialists put poison into the next and killed the colony. However, we still get wasps, attracted by ripe figs, so there must be another nest nearby. What distance would you expect there to be between nests?

  8. Have any European Bee associations gotten into contact with Asian beekeepers to exchange methods and tips on how they handle the hornet problem? I just read an AFP article on Tawainese beekeepers but there was no mention of Asian hornet attacks on their hives. Knowledge and experience should be shared globally.

  9. We have just lost a colony to asiatic hornets in calvados north-west france. A second colony is under attack but seems to be fighting them off for the moment. They are very aggressive so may have some chance of survival.

    1. Seems very late in the season for the hornets still to be active in large numbers, especially in north-west France. In Provence, where the weather has been unseasonably warm and dry, they seem to have disappeared over the last 3 weeks or so.

      1. Unfortunately we found the hornets in the hive. It was thriving just one week ago but not a single bee has survived.?

  10. Asian hornets or Velutina wasp will only enter a hive once it has been drasticaly reduced, a strong hive will stop them, maybe the hive was debilitated from a different cause then killed off, at this time of year they do not tend to attack the bees as they have no larvas to feed, they will go more for honey, ripe fruit etc, we are catching thousands using the water from washing the caps from extraction in the traps.
    I also am using a new invention to reduce them and its working unatended fine. I have built a circuit the same as what is in a mosquito/fly electric raquet only a bit beefier and a 1meter by 1 meter frame using the same wire to hang wax on frames. 3 frames for up to 10 hives, one each end and one in the middle.
    The wasps fly back and forth in front of the hives and try to fly through but get frizzled by some 2000 -2500volts. the wires are 2cm apart so as not to harm the bees(although they are not in the track off them)you can put a tray of water underneath to catch the ones that are only stunned

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