Invasive Species Alert for Asian hornet

Asian hornet recorded in Ireland, 2021. Photo: Aidan O’Hanlon, National Museum of Ireland

Species Alert for: Asian hornet (Vespa velutina).

Issued by: the the National Biodiversity Data Centre on behalf of the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Press release issued 7th of May 2021.

Reason for issue: to notify of the first verified sighting in Ireland of a single specimen of Asian hornet, a regulated Invasive Alien Species of Union concern.

Introduction status: Not present. One individual was found ‘alive but dying’ on 25th of April, 2021.

Is there a reference specimen?: Yes. The Asian hornet specimen was verified by Dr. A. O’Hanlon of the National Museum of Ireland as a female Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) colour form nigrithorax. The specimen will be retained in the museum collections.

Known distribution of Asian hornet in Ireland:

This is the first verified sighting of an Asian hornet in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The single hornet was discovered in a home garage on the northside of Dublin. There is no indication of a nest in the vicinity and on the basis of the ongoing surveillance, there is no evidence that Asian hornet is established in Ireland at this time.

Pathway of introduction:

The circumstances of how the specimen arrived in the country are not known. There are many possible pathways of introduction particularly to urban areas near hubs and entry points with extensive regional, national and international connectivity. Given the recent weather patterns with cool northerly airflow that has persisted for the second half of April, it seems less likely to have been a natural dispersal from neighbouring regions.

Response actions taken:

  • Specimen collected by the National Museum of Ireland and verified as Vespa velutina.
  • National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture Food and Marine (DAFM) committed to immediate additional surveillance for the Asian Hornet, especially around entry points in Ireland with direct access to mainland Europe including ports and airports along with large distribution hubs.
  • Other surveillance traps will be set in strategic locations from the original point of detection in Dublin 3. This is in addition to the sentinel apiary programme that DAFM operate with the cooperation of volunteer beekeepers. This involves surveillance for Asian Hornet at apiaries located at strategic locations around Ireland.
  • Formal notification to the European Commission of the detection of Asian hornet in Ireland issued 7th of May 2021 under the EU Regulation on Invasive Alien Species (1143/2014)
  • Press release issued 7th of May 2021 by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Housing.
  • Species alert issued 7th of May 2021 on the National Biodiversity Data Centre website and social media accounts
  • National Biodiversity Data Centre maintains an online reporting function: https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/record/invasives

With thanks to the recorder for notifying the National Biodiversity Data Centre of the sighting with photos and retaining the specimen for verification by Dr. A. O’Hanlon.

Summary of potential impacts:

The Asian hornet is a predator of honeybees, wasps, other pollinators such as bumblebees, hoverflies and spiders, which it uses primarily to feed its larvae. These prey are important for pollination of crops as well as wild flora and disruptions to their populations may have serious impacts on biodiversity and pollination services. Honeybees are its main prey with potential consequences for the honey production sector. However, the potential of the Hornet to become invasive in Ireland is dependent on its successful establishment of colonies here.

Asian hornet will also sting people but in general, the sting is no worse than a sting from any bee or wasp in Ireland. The reaction experienced by people from their sting varies – as it does with wasp or bee stings – from most commonly a mild localized hive like throbbing swelling to more rarely, a severe reaction of anaphylaxis.

Asian hornet quick identification comparison guide V2. Click image to open as pdf in a new tab.

Identification features: Large hornet with a generally dark appearance with an orange face. Mistaken identity in Ireland with native species has occurred however, the following characteristics can help with identification:

  • Queen up to 3 centimetres & worker up to 2.5 centimetres long
  • Dark colour antennae
  • Long orange face
  • Entirely brown or black thorax so no stripes on the middle/thorax section.
  • Abdomen mostly black except for yellow band across the 4th segment with orangey-coloured lower segments.
  • Legs yellow at the ends
  • It has a small thin stinger that is retractable so normally not visible.

Please click on this Asian hornet comparison identification guide to aid with identification.

What should I do and who to contact?

  • Become familiar with the identification features of Asian hornet
  • Report suspected sightings in Ireland with a photograph through this online form https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/record/invasives or the Biodiversity Data capture app.
  • Report suspected sightings in Northern Ireland via: The Asian Hornet Watch app; the CEDaR online recording form; at iRecord or call the Non-Native Invasive Species Team at the Northern Ireland Environment Agency – Tel: 028 9056 9558
  • If you have an apiary and concerns for bee health, contact the Horticulture and Plant Health Unit of DAFM. E-mail: beekeeping@agriculture.gov.ie
  • If you are travelling to countries with established populations of Asian hornet please be mindful to check your belongings and vehicles before returning for any possible ‘hitchhiker’ species. In Europe, Asian hornet is present in many countries including France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and some of the Channel islands and is spreading rapidly. See the DAFM Don’t Risk it Campaign.
  • It is important that there should not be an over-reaction to sightings of other large insects such as wood wasps and native social wasps. It is imperative other species are not targeted, disrupted or destroyed on foot of this discovery of one Asian hornet individual.
  • For general queries or information relating to invasive alien species, email the NPWS ias@housing.gov.ie and see National Parks & Wildlife Service (npws.ie)

Additional Resources: