Friday, April 07, 2023


This will be a brief post but I didn't want to miss this one out of the blog. 

In recent years, if you are interested in natural history there is no doubt you will have seen some hysterical information regarding the arrival of Asian Hornets into the UK. If you saw some of the tabloid pieces, these killer aliens are just about everywhere taking over and destroying our natural ecosystems, a bit like the invasions of giant killer spiders every autumn.. You would be forgiven for having an image of the old 50s film 'Them!' in mind when seeing such nonsense.

The worst thing about the dodgy publicity is that now, every summer, someone sees and reports an invasion of Asian Hornets into their garden when in reality the insect they have just seen, flattened with the newspaper or drowned in fly killer is a harmless native Wasp or worse, a declining European Hornet. Asian Hornets, despite what the Mirror or Mail would have you believe are still very rare in the UK with only a few sightings per year ( 23 in total since 2016) almost all confined to the south of England..

With this in mind, experience tells me, it pays to treat any wildlife reports from Joe Public with a massive pinch of salt until it has been confirmed by someone reliable.

This brings me to events of last Tuesday. I was at work when Jane rang from her work place to tell me they had captured an Asian Hornet from a box of cauliflowers delivered from France and she had sent me a photo. While there are better insect pics, the specimen on show in an empty clear plastic strawberry container was indeed an Asian Hornet Vespa velutina.

In the last 20 years, numbers of this insect have ballooned on the near continent so it is expected that eventually they will get established in the UK but, hopefully, we can keep them out by being vigilant. After all they originate from the far east and southern Asia and have no place in western Europe where they can have a big effect on the numbers of native bees and other insects.

It seemed like this one in the container was the first for the north of England, so I had to pop along for a look. The invader was now in the chiller to keep it calm while awaiting its fate ( freezer). It was carefully extracted for no more than a minute so I could take a record shot. I was surprised to see not some vile deadly beast but a really smart hymonopteran, Slightly smaller than our native Hornets, but still quite a unit, it adopted a go-faster racing pose and was decked out in mostly black with yellow socks and some orange on the stinging end. Very nice.

After it was frozen the next day a chap drove all the way up from Wakefield to collect the specimen for 'verification'. He said the vegetable company would be contacted and given advice on measures to prevent the importation of non native pest species into the country. 

I confess to feeling a bit sorry for it...

Asian Hornet Vespa velutina


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