What does an Asian hornet look like? How they are different to UK native hornets

This is how to tell the difference between an Asian hornet and UK native hornet <i>(Image: Getty)</i>
This is how to tell the difference between an Asian hornet and UK native hornet (Image: Getty)

Although Asian hornets are not native to the UK, 2023 saw a record number of sightings and so far eight have been reported this year.

The first confirmed sighting of an Asian hornet in mainland UK was in September 2016 in Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

But people are now being urged to report any sightings of Asian hornets this summer as nature groups warn of a potential surge in damaging invasive non-native species.

The UK’s chief plant health officer Nicola Spence has called for beekeepers and the wider public to be increasingly vigilant to the presence of the hornet as they threaten honey bees and insect pollinators.


Asian Hornet devours a wasp on the 'UK frontline'


The Environment Department (Defra) said the species is not established in the UK yet but early trapping is fundamental to eradication efforts.

However, to report any sightings you need to be able to identify them.

You might be wondering what they look like, what specific features they have, and how you can distinguish them between wasps and native UK hornets. Let’s find out.

What does an Asian hornet look like?

Asian hornets were “accidentally” introduced from China to other parts of the world, reports Asian Hornet Action Team.

The experts added: “The Asian hornet has distinctive yellow legs compared to other insects and it's body is a velvety brown or black while the abdomen is almost dark, except for the fourth abdominal segment which is dark yellow.

“The Asian hornet has a black head and yellow face. Typically Asian hornet queens (egg-layers) are 30 mm in length and males about 24 mm while the workers measure about 20 mm in length.”

What is the difference between the UK hornet and the Asian hornet?

“They’re slightly smaller than our native hornets and have a dark abdomen and a fourth yellow segment,” says British Pest Control Association (BPCA).

Oxford Mail: Have you ever spotted an Asian hornet in your garden?
Oxford Mail: Have you ever spotted an Asian hornet in your garden?

Have you ever spotted an Asian hornet in your garden? (Image: Getty)

“Another way to tell the difference is that Asian hornets have bright yellow tips to the legs while our native hornets have dark legs.”

Can Asian hornets kill you?

Asian hornets present no greater threat to human health than UK native hornets or wasps.

But if you do suspect the species in the area, you should remain cautious.

“Under no circumstances should you attempt to disturb a nest as Asian Hornets have been known to defend their nest area aggressively,” explains Asian Hornet Action Team.

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An Asian hornet sting is known to be similar to a wasp sting and can be painful.

In rare cases, a person may suffer an allergic reaction which could lead to symptoms including hives, swelling and difficulty breathing.

It is only in extremely rare cases, where a sting may cause death due to an anaphylactic reaction.