UK Nature Lovers Urged To Report Huge, Wasp-Eating Hornets On Sight

Footage of an Asian hornet was released from Kent last week.
Nicolas Reusens via Getty Images

Hello, hi. Are you having a good day? Because if so, I advise you to look away from the rest of this article.

Recently, a video showing an Asian hornet eating a wasp went live from The Independent. The video came from a Kent garden (specifically Capel-le-Ferne in Folkestone, which is considered a “mainland front-line”), and was captured by beekeeper and pest controller Simon Spratley.

The terrifying-looking species are not any more damaging to humans than regular hornets, but if you’re a honeybee ― well, that’s a different story. After being introduced to France in about 2004 (possibly through a piece of imported pottery), the species has run riot in the country, decimating local honeybee hives.

Per the Guardian, there have been 36 confirmed Asian hornet sightings in the UK since their recorded arrival in 2016. This year alone, however, a whopping 16 confirmed sightings have occurred ― mostly in Kent. For context, 2021 saw two confirmed Asian hornet sightings in the UK, and 2022 also only had two.

Professor Adam Hart, ecologist, conservation scientist, entomologist, and the University of Gloucestershire’s professor of Science Communication, told HuffPost UK that “Numbers have risen but these hornets are still very rare here in the UK. Their spread across Europe though shows us how rapidly that can change, which is why it is important to be on the lookout.”

Reporting any Asian hornets you see is important, as experts need to destroy nests in order to prevent the species from taking hold in the UK. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ chief plant and bee health officer, Nicola Spence, recently told The Guardian that “By ensuring we are alerted to possible sightings as early as possible, we can take swift and effective action to stamp out the threat posed by Asian hornets.”

Given the damage the creature can cause to all-important honeybee species (among other vital creepy-crawlies), we thought we’d share how to spot the hornets, where to report them, and where they’re most likely to strike.

Asian hornets are smaller than typical European counterparts

Aside from being a little smaller than their European counterparts, BBC’s Wildlife Magazine says that the species are also notable thanks to “the yellow ends to the[ir] legs.”

They add that “the head of the European hornet is yellow from above while the Asian hornet is dark from above.”

The Wildlife Trust also says that Asian hornet queens are up to 30mm in length, while workers reach up to 25mm on average. They say that the species has a black or brown thorax with ” abdominal segments brown with fine yellow band.” “Only the fourth segment [is] almost entirely yellow-orange,” they say.

Do keep a careful eye on any suspected hornets and certainly don’t attempt to destroy any nests yourself, however. Professor Hart told HuffPost UK that he has “been sent perhaps 50 messages from people worried about hornets and in every case the species was our native hornet or another species of social wasp. Wasps are important in our ecosystem and we need to look after them, while being mindful of the potential harm the Asian hornet can cause.”

“My main concern is that our native hornet species, which is a magnificent insect, or other wasps will be affected by people thinking they are Asian hornets,” he added.

The species is largely seen in the South-West, specifically in Jersey and Kent

You’re more likely to spot the Asian hornet if you’re on the South-West coast or Channel Isles. The vast, vast majority of confirmed 2023 sightings have been in Kent.

You can report any sightings via a specially-designed app

The ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app is available to download from Apple and Android stores,” said.

Or, you can contact with a photo, or through the non-native secretariat website. You can also fill in this online form.