It is conquering the European mainland: the Asian hornet species Vespa velutina first appeared on the Atlantic coast of France in 2004 – and has now also been spotted in Germany. “Anyone learning about this might be worried at first, as the insect is often confused with its big sister the Asian Giant Hornet,” says Martin Klatt from the Naturschutzbund (NABU) in a press release. However, this species that has emerged now is about the size of our domestic hornet and poses no additional threat to human safety.
Even so, researchers are currently still divided over the impact on the ecosystem. The hornets hunt and feed on other insects including honey bees. As such, beekeepers worry that Vespa velutina might endanger their colonies and threaten their livelihoods. It is also one additional factor to consider which may impact honey bee health in Europe in the future.
The Asian hornet hunts homecoming honey bees
Normally, the animals are no more aggressive than domestic species. However, they are very adept hunters and can even fly backwards. The Asian hornet hunts homecoming honey bees and feeds them to its own brood. If a honey bee colony is weakened, Vespa velutina will also enter the hive, feed on the honey and remove the brood. To keep the hornets from entering the beehives, beekeepers can attach hole grids at the hives’ entrance.
German entomologists are especially interested in the interaction with the domestic hornet. “The new species from Asia is a competitor. The next couple of years will show the impact this has,” Klatt further commented in the NABU press release. “It’s all the more important to carefully monitor the further development.”
More information on Vespa velutina
Read the complete press release of NABU Baden-Württemberg (German).