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Datasheet

Vespa velutina (Asian Hornet)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 03 January 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Vespa velutina
  • Preferred Common Name
  • Asian Hornet
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • The hornets (Vespa and Provespa) are a group of well known, conspicuous hymenopterans which are found predominantly in Eastern Asia. The genus Vespa consists of 22 species of horn...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Vespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); dorsal view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.
TitleAdult
CaptionVespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); dorsal view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.
Copyright©Muséum de Toulouse/Didier Descouens-2013 - CC BY-SA 4.0
Vespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); dorsal view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.
AdultVespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); dorsal view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.©Muséum de Toulouse/Didier Descouens-2013 - CC BY-SA 4.0
Vespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); ventral view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.
TitleAdult
CaptionVespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); ventral view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.
Copyright©Muséum de Toulouse/Didier Descouens-2013 - CC BY-SA 4.0
Vespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); ventral view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.
AdultVespa velutina (Yellow-legged or Asian hornet); ventral view. Museum set specimen, originally from Jardin des Plantes, Toulouse, France. June 2013.©Muséum de Toulouse/Didier Descouens-2013 - CC BY-SA 4.0
Vespa velutina (yellow-legged or Asian hornet); natural enemy. A montage image (not to scale) of a parasitic Mermithid nematode (probably Pheromermis vasparum) and its host, Vespa velutina. (From the paper: (2015). "Can parasites halt the invader? Mermithid nematodes parasitizing the yellow-legged Asian hornet in France". PeerJ 3: e947. DOI:10.7717/peerj.947. ISSN 2167-8359)
TitleNatural enemy
CaptionVespa velutina (yellow-legged or Asian hornet); natural enemy. A montage image (not to scale) of a parasitic Mermithid nematode (probably Pheromermis vasparum) and its host, Vespa velutina. (From the paper: (2015). "Can parasites halt the invader? Mermithid nematodes parasitizing the yellow-legged Asian hornet in France". PeerJ 3: e947. DOI:10.7717/peerj.947. ISSN 2167-8359)
Copyright©Quentin Rome/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0
Vespa velutina (yellow-legged or Asian hornet); natural enemy. A montage image (not to scale) of a parasitic Mermithid nematode (probably Pheromermis vasparum) and its host, Vespa velutina. (From the paper: (2015). "Can parasites halt the invader? Mermithid nematodes parasitizing the yellow-legged Asian hornet in France". PeerJ 3: e947. DOI:10.7717/peerj.947. ISSN 2167-8359)
Natural enemyVespa velutina (yellow-legged or Asian hornet); natural enemy. A montage image (not to scale) of a parasitic Mermithid nematode (probably Pheromermis vasparum) and its host, Vespa velutina. (From the paper: (2015). "Can parasites halt the invader? Mermithid nematodes parasitizing the yellow-legged Asian hornet in France". PeerJ 3: e947. DOI:10.7717/peerj.947. ISSN 2167-8359)©Quentin Rome/via wikipedia - CC BY-SA 4.0

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Vespa velutina Lepeletier, 1836

Preferred Common Name

  • Asian Hornet

Other Scientific Names

  • Vespa auraria Smith, 1852
  • Vespa crabro var. immaculata Morawitz, 1889
  • Vespa flavitarsa Sonan, 1929
  • Vespa fruhstorferi Stadelmann, 1894
  • Vespa mongolica var. divergens Pérez, 1910

International Common Names

  • English: Asian black hornet; Asian hornet; Yellow-legged hornet
  • Spanish: avispa asiática
  • French: frelon à pattes jaunes; frelon asiatique

Local Common Names

  • Germany: Asiatische Hornisse
  • Italy: calabrone asiatico
  • Portugal: avispón asiático

Summary of Invasiveness

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The hornets (Vespa and Provespa) are a group of well known, conspicuous hymenopterans which are found predominantly in Eastern Asia. The genus Vespa consists of 22 species of hornets worldwide, many of which are found in Asia. Vespa velutina (Hymenoptera: Vespidae) is a hornet of Asian origin which is a predator ofsocialhymenopterans, and in particular of honey bees (Apis mellifera). It is widespread in Asia, and the subspecies V. v. nigrithorax has been introduced to southern France, from where it has recently spread to Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Italy. It is also an invasive species in South Korea.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Hymenoptera
  •                         Family: Vespidae
  •                             Genus: Vespa
  •                                 Species: Vespa velutina

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Vespa velutina is one of the 22 currently recognized Vespa species (Archer, 2012; Perrard et al. 2013). It includes 12 colour forms (among which are aurariaSmith, 1852, nigrithorax du Buysson, 1905 and pruthii, Sonan, 1929). These forms were for long considered as subspecies (Vecht, 1957) but came to be treated as synonyms of the nominal form according to Carpenter and Kojima (1997). In 1991, Archer removed auraria and pruthii to establish a separate species V. auraria, because of its apparent sympatry with V. velutinanigrithorax in different localities, but this was rejected by Nguyen et al. (2006) because the colour form auraria intergraded with nigrithorax in northern Vietnam and no other morphological character could be found to distinguish them. Further molecular studies confirmed the synonymy of auraria and pruthii with V. velutina (Perrard 2012). Archer (2012) provided a key supporting the identification of V. velutina colour forms and their distribution. It is nigrithorax that is invasive in Europe.

Description

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V. velutina is highly variable in colour and 10 subspecies have been identified (Vecht 1957; Carpenter and Kojima 1997; Nguyen et al., 2006).

The subspecies nigrithorax du Buysson (1905) is the one introduced to France in recent years. This subspecies is easily recognisable since it is the only hornet or wasp that has an entirely dark brown body with only one orange band towards the end of the abdomen (4th tergite) (Chauzat & Martin, 2009).

Roberts et al. (2010) describe invasive V. velutina as follows:

Slightly smaller than the native European Hornet, with queens up to 30mm, and workers up to 25mm in length. They are easily recognised by their appearance and difficult to confuse with any other species. The thorax is a velvety black / dark brown with brown abdominal segments bordered with a fine yellow band. Only the 4th segment is almost entirely a yellowy-orange. The legs are brown with yellow ends and the head is black with an orange-yellow face.

C. Villemant (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013) describes Vespa velutina nigrithorax du Buysson (1905) as follows:

Female: Head and thorax finely punctate, with fine silky sparsely scattered erect hairs, abdomen chagrined. Body dark brown with face and mouthparts orange (except dark teeth); antennae brown dorsally, orange ventrally. Dorsal face of abdominal segments brown with clearer apical margins: a thin yellow band on the first segment and a thin orange band on the second and third segments; fourth abdominal segment almost entirely orange with a median basal triangular black marking, generally not visible when the hornet is alive; fifth and sixth abdominal segments more or less orange-brown. Ventral part of abdomen brown, the triangular apex often lighter; second and third segments ventrally yellow with a median basal black marking. Legs brown except yellow tarsi; wings brownish hyaline. There are no distinct morphological differences between the sexual and sterile (worker) females. Some workers are smaller (notably in spring) but in autumn many workers are as big as the future queens. Inside the colony, the laying queen can be recognized by her distended abdomen and, at the end of the season, damaged wings. Male: very similar to females in size and colour, antennae longer. Ventral face of abdomen brown, apex truncated with a pair of yellow spots.

A key to the Vespinae can be found in Archer (2012);  Martin (1995) and Nguyen and Carpenter (2002) also provide keys to the Asian species of hornets in the genera Vespa and Provespa.

As for the nests of V. velutina, they are usually larger than those of other European species and the entrance is typically located laterally, unlike that of V. crabro which is usually basal (Perrard et al., 2009; F. Muller, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013).

Distribution

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Out of the 22 Vespa hornet species from Asia, only a few have extended their geographical range to include the Philippines and New Guinea. Only two species of hornets are found all the way to Europe: the European hornet, Vespa crabroLinnaeus (1758) and the oriental hornet Vespa orientalisLinnaeus (1771) (Matsuura & Yamane, 1990). V. crabro is found throughout Europe whereas V. orientalis has not spread beyond Bulgaria, Greece, southern Italy and eastern North Africa (Carpenter and Kojima, 1997).

V. velutina is widespread in Asia, from north-eastern India throughout southern and central China as far as Taiwan and as far south as Indonesia (Archer 1994) and is recorded in the following countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China (including Hong Kong), India, Indonesia (except Kalimantan and Irian Jaya), South Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam (Archer, 2012). Its presence in South Korea results from an introduction in 2003 and it has become invasive there (Choi et al., 2012; Jung et al., 2007).

In 2004 it was reported for the first time in the south-west of France (Haxaire et al., 2006; Villemant et al., 2006 a and b) and it has now spread more widely (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 2012; Rome et al., 2013); in 2010 it was reported for the first time in Spain (López et al., 2011). It has also recently colonized part of Portugal; it was reported in Belgium (and the adjacent part of France) in 2011 but not in 2012 (Rome et al., 2013). It was first reported in Italy in 2013 (Federazione Apicoltori Italiani, 2013).

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

AfghanistanPresentNativeArcher, 2012
BhutanPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
ChinaWidespreadNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
-FujianPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-ShaanxiPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-SichuanPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-YunnanPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-ZhejiangPresentNativeArcher, 2012
IndiaPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
-AssamPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-Himachal PradeshPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-Jammu and KashmirPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-SikkimPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-Uttar PradeshPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-West BengalPresentNativeArcher, 2012
IndonesiaPresentPresent based on regional distribution.
-JavaPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
-Nusa TenggaraPresentNativeArcher, 2012
-SulawesiPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
-SumatraPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
Korea, Republic ofPresentIntroduced2003 Invasive Archer, 1984; Kim et al., 2006; EPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012; Choi et al., 2012
LaosPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
MalaysiaPresentEPPO, 2007
-Peninsular MalaysiaPresentNativeArcher, 2012
MyanmarPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
NepalPresentNativeArcher, 2012
PakistanPresentNativeArcher, 2012
TaiwanPresentNativeArcher, 2012
ThailandPresentNativeEPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012
VietnamPresentNativeNguyen and Carpenter, 2002; EPPO, 2007; Archer, 2012

Europe

BelgiumLast reported2011Introduced Invasive Rome et al., 2013Observed in 2011 but not 2012
FrancePresentIntroduced Invasive Villemant et al., 2006a; Villemant et al., 2006b; Haxaire et al., 2006; EPPO, 2007; Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 2012; Rome et al., 2013First reported 2004. Initially in south-west but now more widely distributed.
ItalyPresent, few occurrencesIntroduced Invasive Federazione Apicoltori Italiani, 2013First reported in 2013.
PortugalLocalisedIntroduced Invasive Rome et al., 2013
SpainLocalisedIntroducedLópez et al., 2011First found in 2010, in northern Spain.

History of Introduction and Spread

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The presence in France of V. velutina was firstconfirmed in publications in 2006, following the discovery in 2005 of several solitary queens and a first colony belonging to the variety nigrithorax du Buysson (1905) in the Lot-et-Garonne department (Haxaire et al. 2006; Villemant et al., 2006 a and b). It came to the authors' knowledge that some specimens had been seen in 2004  (Villemant et al., 2006b). The identification was confirmed by the Museum of Natural History in Paris in November 2005. This subspecies is found in India and China (Chauzat and Martin, 2009); hibernating founding females might have arrived in Lot-et-Garonne a year earlier in terracotta bonsai pots from China (Villemant et al. 2006 a and b; Chauzat and Martin, 2009).

It was initially thought that the pots had come from Yunnan, but they later turned out to have come from the Shanghai region (C. Villemant, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013), and genetic studies showed that the hornets in France originated from the provinces around Shanghai (Arca, 2012; Muller et al., 2013).

V. velutina has adapted very well to the south-western French climate and populations have soared quickly to the point that eradication is no longer possible. By the end of 2006, it was recorded in eleven departments in the south-west of France, while in 2007, it spread across 20 south-western departments (Rortais et al., 2010). By 2010 it had been reported from much of western France and a few departments further east (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 2012).

In 2010 V. velutina was reported for the first time in Spain, in Guipuzcoa and Navarra provinces in the north of the country near the border with France (López et al., 2011). It was reported from Portugal in 2011 (Rome et al., 2013), Belgium in 2011 although not 2012 (Rome et al., 2013), and Italy in 2013 (Federazione Apicoltori Italiani, 2013).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
France before 2004 Hitchhiker (pathway cause) ,
Horticulture (pathway cause)
Yes Chauzat and Martin (2009); EPPO (2007); Haxaire et al. (2006); Villemant et al. (2006a); Villemant et al. (2006b) Thought to have been introduced with imported goods from China.

Risk of Introduction

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In Asia, V. velutina is found in climate ranges close to those found in the south of Europe. It was thought that only unusually cold winters could stop its spread further north and/or reduce the population build-up in the southwestern areas of France (Villemant et al. 2006b), but modelling showed that in fact only dry summers could limit expansion in southern Europe (Villemant et al., 2011). The same study showed that the range could potentially include most of the southern part of Europe and possibly other areas around the world. V. velutina can apparently survive long distance transport (as seen in the French incursion with specimens from China) so its potential for introduction and spread in countries with similar climates to the south-western part of France is extremely high. In France, it spread to cover 120,000 km2 within 3 years, demonstrating that it can colonise large areas in a very short period of time if the climatic conditions are favourable. In the UK it is considered to be very likely to enter and become established, and likely to spread rapidly with moderate impacts if and when it does arrive (Marris et al., 2011).

Habitat

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The paper nests of V. velutina are usually built in tree canopies well above the ground, or occasionally in undisturbed and sheltered areas in buildings (under stairwells, in abandoned barns, chicken coops or sections of buildings, etc.) or in bramble bushes, and very rarely underground (Martin, 1995; Rome et al., 2009). See Habitat table for the types of habitat in which the species is found.

Habitat List

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CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial-managed
Buildings Present, no further details
Cultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details
Disturbed areas Present, no further details
Industrial / intensive livestock production systems Present, no further details
Managed forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details
Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural
Natural forests Present, no further details
Natural grasslands Present, no further details
Riverbanks Present, no further details
Wetlands Present, no further details

Biology and Ecology

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Reproductive Biology

All the hornets have an annual life cycle. Nests in temperate regions are founded in spring by a single queen after the over-wintering hibernation period. However, in the tropics nests can be founded by single or multiple queens depending on the species (Spradberry, 1973) -- in some species nests can continue to develop with multiple queens, but this is not the case for V. velutina (F. Muller, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013). The queen quickly builds a small embryo nest in which to rear the first batch of workers (females) in an enclosed and protected place (a wall cavity or a tree hollow). Nests are built from wood removed from dead trees, shrubs, posts, etc. These nests are only small: they consist of 30-40 cells and are the size of a tennis ball. All nests are only ever usedonce and are destroyed by birds or theweather, although the same nest-sites canbe used year after year. It takes 30-40 days for the first batch of workers to emerge in temperate and sub-tropical regions. If the site does not allow for colony expansion, the queen relocates the colony with her first 50-100 workers (Dong and Wang, 1989; Choi et al., 2012).

After this the queen's duties gradually become confined to egg laying as the workers take over the duties of foraging and nest building. As the number of workers increases, the nest undergoes a rapid period of expansion before the queen switches to laying eggs which become new queens and males. By the end of summer, the colony can reach a maximum size of 1000 adult workers and hundreds to thousands of sexuals (i.e. new queens and drones) (Choi et al., 2012; Archer, 2012). As the new sexuals start to emerge they leave the nest, build up their fat body, and mate, usually up in the tree canopy. The mother queen lives for about one year. After mating the males die. The workers probably die of old age in the tropics and not starvation due to the onset of winter as they do in temperate regions. The fertilised queens undergo a period of dormancy in temperate climates and hibernate during winter. They can hibernate alone or in clusters of 2 to 3 under the bark of trees or under stones. During this hibernation period the queen mortality is high and can reach 99% (Archer, 1984).

Nests can be initiated at any time of the year in tropical regions but are only built yearly in spring in temperate climates; they are left empty during winter. There is a positive correlation between the nest size and the number of queens raised (Chauzat and Martin 2009). If the queen dies before sexual production, some of the workers will lay unfertilised (haploid) eggs which will develop into males but the colony will usually perish as any new queens do not lay eggs until some weeks after fertilization. QueenlessV. velutina nests have been reported (F. Muller, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013).

Nutrition

Kuo and Yeh (1990) observed that V. velutina was better at catching prey (e.g. flies and honey bees) as it is much faster and more agile than other hornet species. V. velutina has been reported to limit colony development of European honey bees in Asia by the persistent predation of adult bees (Shah and Shah, 1991). In fact, itis one of the most adept hornets at catching honey bees on the wing: other species land on the hive and grab bees that try and attack the hornet, whereas V. velutina hovers over the entrance to a hive at a distance of 30–40 cm, and swoops down trying repeatedly to catch foragers. Once a bee has been caught it is usually carried off to a tree branch where the head, wings, legs and abdomen are removed (C. Villemant, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013) and a meatball made of the flight muscle which is fed to larvae back in the nest. Each hornet only consumes a portion of the prey herself. The attempts by hornets to access beehives are numerous and frequent, particularly at the end of the season (September to December) when the production of new queens makes high demands on hornet workers (Mollet and Torre 2006).

Environmental Requirements

A key characteristic of hornets’ success is their resilience to environmental change and their capacity to overcome difficulties (Chauzat and Martin, 2009; Villemant et al., 2011; Barbet-Massin et al., 2013). Hornet populations have been reported to fluctuate between years, often with a two-year cycle that may be superimposed on longer fluctuations (7 years for some endemic European species) (Archer, 1985). Several causes have been proposed, for example limited nest sites and usurpation (queen fighting) (Martin, 1992).

One of the key factors that allows hornets to be highly successful predators is their ability to thermoregulate their nests to a constant temperature of around 30°C even if ambient temperatures are lower (Spradberry, 1973; Martin, 1990). When temperatures reach maximum levels in summer months, hornets ventilate their nest. Workers regurgitate water from their mandibles onto the nest (sometimes soaking the nest wall), and evaporate that water through the vibration of their wings to cool down the colony (Perrard et al. 2009).

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Preferred > 60mm precipitation per month
Am - Tropical monsoon climate Preferred Tropical monsoon climate ( < 60mm precipitation driest month but > (100 - [total annual precipitation(mm}/25]))
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climate Preferred Average temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°C

Notes on Natural Enemies

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The nests of Vespa velutina have some natural predators inAquitaine (France) -- in the period ofpre-winter decline of thecolony, green woodpeckers (Picus viridis),jays (Garrulus glandarius) and tits (Paridae) are often seenpillaging nests and eatingthe remaining larvae -- but these are unable to attack large active colonies. There have been rare records of more specialist enemies such as the European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and the European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster), but these have a negligible impact on the population (F. Muller, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013). It isnot yet known if there areother hornet predators (Mollet and Torre, 2006).

Population levels are quite low in Asia compared to Europe, most probably due to competition with many other Vespa species for food resources and nesting sites (Matsuura, 1984).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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The most likely introduction pathway for V. velutina is accidental introduction via trading activities. The fact that the fertilised queens can survive long periods of time hibernating makes it an ideal candidate for long distance transport in shipments of goods, for example in containers, in pots, in building material, under the bark of trees, in decorative material or wooden items or in cars, boxes, trucks, farming equipment, etc.

Only one mated queen is needed to start a new colony and initiate further spread of the species; Arca (2012) showed that the French population originated from a single queen.

In France, V. velutina spread to cover 120,000 km2 within 3 years, demonstrating that it can colonise large areas in a very short period of time if the climatic conditions are favourable.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Garden waste disposal Yes
Hitchhiker Yes Yes
Horticulture Yes
Self-propelled Yes
Smuggling Yes Yes
Timber tradeIf timber is not treated, can overwinter under bark. Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
AircraftIn boxes Yes Yes
Containers and packaging - non-wood Yes Yes
Containers and packaging - woodIf not treated Yes Yes
Land vehicles Yes Yes
Machinery and equipment Yes Yes
Mulch, straw, baskets and sod Yes Yes
Wind Yes

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative
Human health Negative

Economic Impact

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In parts of Asia (Kashmir and China), V. velutina is considered an enemy of honey bees. A single hornet can catch up 25-50 bees per day.This species is able to destroy up to 30% of a colony of the Asian honey bee Apis cerana. Hornet workers attack the honey bee guards one by one, before robbing their brood nest in order to feed their own larvae. The hawking area in front of the hives is territorial -- other hornets that intrude are quickly expelled. In Yunnan Province, China, hornet predation levels are highest in the morning and afternoon, which corresponds with the daily rhythm of honey bee flights (Tan et al., 2005 and 2007). Attack by V. velutina can lead to colony death (Qun, 2001; Tan et al., 2005); if a honey bee colony becomes sufficiently deprived of workers, V. velutina will then enter the hive, feed on the honey and remove the brood.

The introduction into Europe of V. velutina is certainly detrimental to beekeepers. There is not yet much published data on the subejct; Monceau et al. (2013) is one of the first publications to document the impact on apiculture. Attempts by hornets to access beehives are numerous and frequent, particularly at the end of the season (September to December) when the production of new queens makes high demands on hornet workers (Mollet and Torre, 2006; Tan et al., 2007). Even though some honey bees from Asia and Cyprus have developed strategies to defend themselves against other species of hornets (Ono et al., 1995; Papachristoforou et al., 2007), continental European honey bees may not be able to fend off this intruder.

As V. velutina has only recently been introduced to France, there is no economic data available on potential losses to bee keepers and/or to the bee/honey industries.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

Studies are needed to assess the impact at an ecological scale of the introduction of a new predator such as V.velutina on the balance of the whole ecosystem.

Hornets use plant material for nest-building -- they gnaw at branches to extract material which they chew up to build their "paper" nests. There is no obvious adverse impact on vegetation from this activity.

Impact on Biodiversity

Hornets are well known for their attacks on other hymenopteran species, especially honey bees. The making of flesh pellets from prey to feed the brood of hornets was first described in the European hornet, V. crabro, by Janet (1895). The prey spectrum seems to be quite wide and recent studies by Muller et al. (2010, 2013) in France demonstrate that V. velutina preys on a range of insects and even small mammals. The prey spectrum consisted of 59% hymenopteran species (of which bees (Apidae) represented over 35%), 32% dipterans, and 9% others (orders Hemiptera, Orthoptera, Lepidoptera, Mecoptera, Trichopetra, Coleoptera, Heteroptera, Neuroptera, Dermaptera, and Blattaria). Prey collected in different environments varied greatly, which corroborates earlier studies on the adaptability of this species (Matsuura and Yamane, 1990). Previous work also reported that the main prey of V. velutina was Brachycera (Diptera) and social hymenopteran species including bumblebees and honeybees (Vecht, 1957; Williams, 1988; Abrol, 1994). Perrard et al. (2009) studied the activity and behaviour of colonies established in the Southwest of France and determined that V. velutina can also attack halictids.

Choi et al. (2012) found that the arrival of V.velutina had disturbed the relative abundance of the 6 previously known species of Vespa in Busan city, Korea. V. velutina now accounts for 37% of the Vespa population and has caused a 20% drop in V. simillima and a 10% drop in V. mandarinia.

Social Impact

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Concerning its potential danger to man, V. velutina is not considered to be more aggressive than the European hornet, Vespa crabro (Haro and Blanc-Brisset, 2009; Haro et al., 2010); the medical literature indicates that in comparison with other hornet species, it is not a major health threat in Asia (Haro et al., 2010). Although V. velutina aggressiveness towards humans is widely recognised among the inhabitants of Java (Vecht, 1957) and Taiwan (Matsuura, 1973; Ho et al., 1999), its aggressiveness observed in France by Perrard et al. (2009) was low.

There are several newspaper reports of people being stung to death by V. velutina, but  many of them have not been confirmed by a scientific or medical authority (C. Villemant, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France, personal communication, 2013, referring to Schwartz et al., 2012). A review of data from French Poison Control Centers between 2004 and 2011 showed only a few envenomations clearly linked to V. velutina (Haro et al. 2010; Schwartz et al 2012). Moreover, the increase of the V. velutina population in southwestern France is not correlated with an increase in the number of hymenoptera stings (Haro et al., 2010), which are mainly due to honeybees and ordinary wasps.

Like the native European hornet, V. velutina can be dangerous for man by inducing a life-threatening allergic reaction or after multiple stings. However, severe attacks only occur when colonies are disturbed, and because V. velutina nests generally hang very high in the trees, such accidents remain rare (Rome et al., 2011).

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Highly adaptable to different environments
  • Is a habitat generalist
  • Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
  • Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
Impact outcomes
  • Conflict
  • Host damage
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts animal/plant collections
Impact mechanisms
  • Predation
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult/costly to control

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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V. velutina is very easy to recognise since it is the only hornet or wasp that has an entirely dark brown body with only one orange band towards the end of the abdomen (4th tergite) and yellow legs (Roberts et al., 2010). Being very dark, individuals stand out as dark spots in front of beehives or their own nests. V. velutina is also smaller than the two other species found in Europe and/or North America (V. crabro and V. orientalis). It also tends to build larger nests, which can reach 75 cm in length and contain up to 12,000 brood cells in 11 combs (Vecht, 1957).

Prevention and Control

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So far other countries that have been invaded by wasps, such as New Zealand, Australia and the islands of Hawaii, have failed to control their populations despite many attempts (Beggs et al., 2011). These have included the introduction of parasitic nematodes, poison baits and entomopathogenic fungi (Martin, 2004; Beggs et al., 2011). There are currently no control options available for V. velutina apart from the physical destruction of individual nests; however spotting nests is often difficult, as they can remain hidden until leaf fall in autumn and winter reveals their position.

Current recommendations are aimed at bee keepers and apiarists in France in order to protect their bee colonies.

In Asia, the Eastern honey bee Apis cerana has developed two defensive behavioursagainst predation by hornets: a warning system for returning workers by shimmering their wings in unison (Tan et al., 2005) and a thermo-balling system whereby intruders are suffocated and heated to death (up to 45°C) by a ball of bees (Ono, 1995; Tan et al., 2005; Papachristoforou et al., 2007). In Kashmir, a colony of A cerana can kill 10 hornets a day, whereas the European honey bee manages on average to only kill one (Abrol, 2006; Villemant, 2008). European honey bees can form balls but these are much less efficient at killing the hornet than A. cerana balls (Tan et al., 2005 and 2007). They might be able, however, to adapt with time.

Public Awareness

In the UK, beekeepers are encouraged to be alert for the presence of V. velutina, and anyone seeing it is asked to report the sighting to alert_nonnative@ceh.ac.uk (NNSS, undated).

Eradication

Eradication of V. velutina from France isnow impossible as during the past fewyears it has become too well establishedover a large area (Villemant et al., 2011; Rome et al., 2009, 2012, 2013; Chauzat and Martin, 2009).

Physical/mechanical control:

In India, control strategies such as killing hornet queens in early spring, destroying hornet nests and swatting hornets at hive entrances have been advocated. Unfortunately, none of these have been reported to be effective (Shah and Shah, 1991). In France similar methods have been tried with similar results; for example in September 2007, a beekeeper in the Bordeaux area killed about 80 hornets a day over several weeks without any decrease in the hornet pressure on his honey bee colonies (Chauzat and Martin, 2009).

Chemical control:

Hornets have two basic dietary requirements: sugars for energy for the adults, and proteins for the nourishment of the brood: baiting (and poisoning) could therefore be an option. However, this could have adverse effects on non-target species (Beggs et al., 2011).

References

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
DEFRA, BeeBase: Asian Hornethttps://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/index.cfm?pageid=208
Inventaire national du patrimoine naturel (INPN)http://inpn.mnhn.fr/Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France

Organizations

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France: EPPO, European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization, 21 boulevard Richard Lenoir, 75011 Paris, http://www.eppo.int/

Contributors

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10/08/10 Original text by:

CRCNPB Australia, CRC for National Plant Biosecurity, Canberra, Australia

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