The Oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis L.): a threat to the Americas?
Invasive alien species generate adverse ecological, economic and social impacts in the invaded area. This is particularly alarming as the establishment of alien species shows no sign of saturation worldwide. Among invasive alien species, social wasps of the Vespidae family are well known to negatively impact the biodiversity and economy in the invaded areas. In 2020, an established population of the Oriental Hornet (Vespa orientalis L.) was detected in central Chile. This finding represents the first successful establishment of an insect of the genus Vespa in South America and rises an alarm about its potential spread in the Americas. Here, we performed an ecological niche modelling approach using Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and literature occurrences for V. orientalis and a set of environmental variables, to identify the suitable areas for the species outside its native range. The highest suitability values were predicted mostly in warm temperate regions and some arid regions of the world, with humid subtropical, Mediterranean, semi-arid or desert climates. In the Americas, we identified four main regions as moderately or highly suitable for the oriental hornet: the Gulf of Mexico and some areas in western California in the USA, central west Chile and the north-western region of Argentina. When we complemented GBIF occurrences with data from the literature, the potential areas of invasions became broader. Based on our results, we recommend the implementation of early warning monitoring schemes including citizen science initiatives to prevent the invasion of the oriental hornet.