Vespa velutina or the Asian hornet, also known as the yellow legged hornet, is native to Asia and was confirmed for the first time in Lot-et-Garonne in the South West of France in 2004. It was thought to have been imported in a consignment of pottery from China and it quickly established and spread to many regions of France. The hornet preys on honeybees, Apis mellifera and disrupts the ecological role which it provides, harming commercial beekeeping activities. It has also altered the biodiversity in regions where it is present and is potentially deadly to allergic people. All beekeepers should remain vigillant and be on the look out for it in their apiaries.
Appearance and biology of the Asian hornet
Vespa velutina (Asian hornet) and Vespa crabro (European hornet) can be easily distinguished from each other. The Asian hornet is smaller than our native European hornet and has a black and yellow appearance which contrasts the brown and brownish yellow of V. crabro. Nests are founded by a single queen who rapidly starts laying eggs after building her nest in April. As the colony size increases through the summer, it will reach an average population of 6000 individuals and in July, hornets will begin predating on honey bee colonies; hornet brood requires animal proteins which are transformed into flesh pellets and then offered to the larvae. This hunting behaviour can continue well into the end of November. In autumn (around September), the nest will focus on the production of potential queens (on average 350) and male drones, who will mate with the queens. These mated queens will overwinter and leave the workers and males to die before winter. The following spring, the fertilised founder queens will begin the production of a new colony.
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