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Beekeeper’s Notes: Don’t Kill Our Native Hornets Terrifying Though They Can Seem

Published on: 1 Sep, 2022
Updated on: 1 Sep, 2022

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon

I don’t know whether you have ever seen a hornet close up. They are huge, about half the size of your thumb. To see it zooming in your direction is terrifying.

It is an unreasonable fear though for European hornets largely go about their business without interacting with humans.

The invasive Asian hornet is mainly black but with yellow legs.

The trouble is there is an interloper, the honeybee killer Asian hornet, Vespa velutina.

With its distinctive yellow legs, it is smaller than the European hornet at about 20mm to 30mm long but it can be deadly for bee colonies. They can eat 50 honey bees a day so a Vespa velutina colony of up to 5,000 creatures would make mincemeat of the average 20,000 to 30,000 bees in a colony.

It is now commonplace in France apparently and, trying to hold back an invasion of the mainland, one of the Guildford beekeepers was in Jersey recently hunting for their nests.

First seen in the UK in 2016, sightings peaked in 2018. So far in 2022, there has only been one confirmed sighting, a single Asian hornet in Felixstowe.

Beekeepers in the UK are still on the alert.

But sometimes they make mistakes and kill our native hornet.

One such incident was relayed on social media by a beekeeper who, no doubt, had innocently caught seven hornets in their wasp trap. Thinking she had done a good thing, she let people know with photos. A swift telling off came back: “Our European hornets don’t deserve being killed!” and “We should be protecting our native wildlife not killing it.”


On the local beekeeping front, it’s less frantic now. Honey has been bottled and labelled and thoughts are turning to preparing the hives in our garden for the winter.

There could be four or even five months of cold and, (thinking of the current drought) hopefully wet weather with the bees unable to get out to forage. Questions to ask and prepare for. Will the colonies have enough bees to keep warm? And do they have plenty of honey in their larder to see them through?

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Responses to Beekeeper’s Notes: Don’t Kill Our Native Hornets Terrifying Though They Can Seem

  1. Paul Robinson Reply

    September 1, 2022 at 4:56 pm

    I was stung by a hornet on the ankle a few years ago at Riverside Park and it hurt for a week!

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