IT’s big, bad, potentially lethal and thousands could now be heading for Cornwall

Insect experts have warned that the Asian hornet may be on its way to these shores from France.

They also say the insects target honey bees and have urged keepers to be on their guard.

Two years ago year the hornets stung a 54-year-old father of three to death in France, after he disrupted a nest in the Loire Valley.

Known as Vespa Velutina Nigrithorax the hornets are believed to have arrived in Europe on container ships from China in 2004.

It is now feared the insects may be on their way across the Channel and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is urging people to report any sightings.

The species are smaller than European hornets and Defra issues a statement that urges people to be vigilante.

The British BeekeepersAssociation says that although it is not yet present in the UK, it is considered likely to arrive soon and that it could be accidentally imported (such as soil with imported pot plants, cut flowers, fruit and timber). 

Active months are between April and November (peak August/September).

What to look out for:

  • Vespa velutina queens are up to 3 cm in length; workers up to 25 mm (slightly smaller than the native European hornet Vespa crabro)
  • Entirely dark brown or black velvety body, bordered with a fine yellow band
  • Only one band on the abdomen: 4th abdominal segment almost entirely yellow/orange
  • Legs brown with yellow ends
  • Head black with an orange-yellow face
  • Vespa velutina is a day flying species which, unlike the European hornet, ceases activity at dusk

If you think you have seen one take a picture and email it with details of where you saw it and your contact information to the Non Native Species Secretariat - for more information go to their website.

If it is safe to do so,you can send in a sample to the National Bee Unit for examination to confirm identity.  However, do not under any circumstances disturb or provoke an active hornets’ nest.