Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa velutina, Lepeletier, 1836)
Origin: Southeast Asia (tropical and sub-tropical areas: northern India, east China, Indochina, and Indonesia)
Size: 17 to 32 mm (queen- 30 mm, males-24 mm, worker bee-20 mm)
The Asian Giant Hornet is a wasp a little bit smaller than the European Hornet (Vespa crabro). The colour is mainly dark with an orange band in the 4th segment of the abdomen and a yellow stripe in the first segment, the edge of the abdomen is dark, the head and thorax are dark; when seen from the front, the head is orange and the legs yellow.
In the Spring, the queen builds the primary nest on its own, usually in a protected place; the nest is rounded with a 5 to 10 cm diameter. At the end of spring or beginning of summer the colony of wasps builds a secondary nest in a high and isolated place, like the top of a tree or a high building, this nest is bigger and has a pear shape with a lateral opening. The secondary nests can have thousands of wasps and some of them will build new colonies the following spring. The Asian Giant Hornet is carnivorous and feeds mainly on bees, it is a predator of the Honeybee (Apis melifera); usually settles down in urban or close to urban areas.
In Europe there is a subspecies: Vespa velutina nigrithorax, which lives in the North of India (Darjeeling, Sikkim), Bhutan, China and the mountains of Sumatra and Sulawesi (Indonesia). This subspecies was introduced to Europe through a maritime way, it is thought that they arrived in France with a load of Bonsai from China, in 2004, and spread very quickly all over the country. This Hornet was reported in Spain in 2010, in Portugal and Belgium in 2011 and in Italy at the end of 2012; recently was reported in Germany and in the United Kingdom. The Asian Great Hornet was also introduced in South Korea (2003) and it is considered an invasive species.
The reproduction strategy of this species, marked with a higher breeding success comparing with other wasps and the higher ability of dissemination, make the Asian Great Hornet a danger, not just for other bee species, biodiversity, and for agriculture and public health (can attack in a group when threatened). The honey production is also affected because the presence of the Asian Great Hornet decreases the activity of the Honeybee and can even cause the destruction of all the hive, indirectly this can affect the agriculture because the Honeybee is an important pollinator.
In Portugal the Asian Great Hornet is present in the North and Centre Regions. In 2018 a plan for surveillance and control was implemented of the Asian Great Hornet “STOPvespa” coordinated by the ICNF (Nature and Forests Conservation Institute) where citizens can register online the sightings of this species.