2022 map of the presence of the Asian hornet in France

The Vespa velutina is the most common hornet species in France. This Asian hornet is smaller than the “giant Asian hornet”. Where is the Asian hornet in France in 2022? How to recognize it? Is its sting lethal? Photo, size, nest, dangers, what to do… Info and advice to protect yourself.

[Mis à jour le 9 mai 2022 à 12h11] The Asian hornets found in France are part of the species “Vespa velutina“. The main risk of sting comes from nests hornet near dwellings. They are smaller than the “giant Asian hornet” or “Vespa mandarinia”, known in Japan because it kills around 40 people a year. It is the most big species hornet in the world. How to acknowledge an asian hornet? What is his cut ? Is the Asian hornet sting deadly ? What to do in the event of a sting? Where is the Asian hornet found in France in 2022 ?

Where are the Asian hornets in France?

The Asian hornet is, as its name suggests, native to Asia. However, it has been present in France since 2004, when it was first spotted (in Lot-et-Garonne: the red dot on the map). Since, the asian hornet has acclimated and colonized all of France. Discover the map of its presence in France, department by department, according to the year of appearance.

2022 map of the presence of the Asian hornet in France © INPN (France)

“The Asian hornet has arrived in our country by accident in 2004then became well established in our environment, begins Stéphane Gayet, infectious disease specialist. It has the same biological requirements as the European hornet. He is a little smaller (about 3 centimeters) but can easily be spotted thanks to its very dark color”, describes the specialist. If its European counterpart looks a bit like a huge wasp, the Asian hornet (Vespa velutina) is very dark : its head and abdomen are black with an orange ring on the abdomen, and its legs are black and yellow.

► Its pasta is two-colored : black near the thorax and yellow at the tip

► Sound thorax is black-brown and hairy

► His abdomen has a single orange ring

► His head is blackunlike the European hornet which has a reddish-brown head.

► It measures about 3cma little less than the European hornet which measures about 4 cm.

How big is the Asian hornet?

It measures approximately 3cma little less than the European hornet which measures about 4 cm.

Size of the Asian hornet next to a wasp
Size of the Asian hornet next to a wasp © plazaccameraman-123RF

What does an Asian hornet look like in a photo?

asian hornet
Asian Hornet (Vespa Velutina) © Eduardo Gonzalez-123RF

What is the biggest hornet in the world?

The Asian hornet “Vespa Mandarinia” also known as “giant” has just been spotted in the United States, reported the New York Times May 3, 2020. The Vespa Mandarinia was described in the 19th century by the Englishman Frederick Smith. He is especially present in China, Japan, Korea, Russia, India, Nepal, Burma, Laos and Malaysia. “This giant hornet measures 2.5 to 4 cm for the workers and 4.5 to 5.5 cm for the queens” says Quentin Rome, Head of “Asian Hornet & Hymenoptera” at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. It would have been spotted in France in 2005in the Varas pointed out by a Toxico-vigilance report from the poison control center of 2009, but according to our interlocutor who has been monitoring the Asian hornet in France since 2005 and who regularly receives reports of the giant hornet each time it is a Scolia or a hornet queen of Europe. I think we can be certain that this first observation of 2005 corresponded to one of these two species”. Japanese statistics for this species report 30 to 50 annual deaths, 90 to 95% of which are related to an allergy. “On the other hand, they observe every year deaths by multi-visceral damage at the time of multiple bites with rhabdomyolysis, kidney and liver failuremultiple infarcts, respiratory distress. These are very severe paintings much more frequent than in Europe” say the authors. As the species is larger (therefore with more venom) and more aggressive, it is difficult to say if the venom is more toxic than that of the species we have in France or if the victims receive more venom due to the size and behavior of the insect.

Distribution of the 3 species of hornets present in Europe.
Distribution of the 3 species of hornets present in Europe. © INPN

“It is near the nest (less than 5 m) or trying to catch them that we risk being bitten.”

Is the Asian hornet dangerous?

The Asian hornet is no less aggressive than the European hornet. “No animal is aggressive if it does not feel threatened, emphasizes Quentin Rome. In wasps, hornets, bees… It is near the nest (less than 5 m) or when trying to catch them that you risk getting stung. Otherwise, whatever the species, it will prefer to flee.” It is therefore a defense sting when it occurs: “The Asian hornet does not attack for pleasure, because it risks dying when it stings. If the sting stays planted, it can bleed out”continues Stéphane Gayet. Like the European hornet, it hunts insects and spiders to feed its larvae. If its harm to the ecosystem is not demonstrated, “It’s a factor additional honey bee attenuationso its impact on beekeeping is not negligible” indicates Quentin Rome.

“It is not recommended to apply ice and to use an aspi-venom in the event of a sting.”

What to do in the event of an Asian hornet sting?

“The hornet sting is like the wasp sting but, more marked and painful, explains the infectiologist. Then can come a local swelling. “In case of multiple bites (more than 20), there may be headaches” says Quentin Rome. If the person is known to be allergic (symptoms may be hives, redness, itching, generalized swelling, edema of the tongue or respiratory tract (chest pressure, cyanosis = bluish discoloration of the skin), drop in blood pressure, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea), you must immediately call the Samu (15). When you are stung by a hornet, “It is not recommended to apply ice and use aspi-venom, warns Quentin Rome. On the other hand, it is necessary to privilege to approach a source of heat which destroys the venom. You must also disinfect with soap or other “because it often causes a small local infection”.

► Remove your rings in the event of a hand prick, disinfect with soap and water and possibly with an antiseptic. Approach a heat source (hair dryer, cigarette), by avoiding burning yourself, can reduce the pain.

► If bite in the mouth, throat, multiple bites (more than 20) or if local symptoms worsen, consult a doctor urgently.

Can you die from an Asian hornet sting?

In the vast majority of cases, this is not not a fatal sting. “I am not aware ofno cases of death by envenomation (multiple stings without allergy) in wasps and hornetsreports Quentin Rome. Hornets and wasps colonies are not dense enough, not all of them will sting, and it would take several hundred injections to risk death, apart from allergy. It is in case of allergy to the venom of Hymenoptera (the wasp family) that the risk of death is increased. In babies and young children “The bites can cause edema or lower their blood pressure. Young children can die from it, must therefore immediately contact the emergency services recommends Stéphane Gayet.

A hornet’s nest starts out the size of an orange and can reach 60 cm in diameter.

asian hornet nest
Nest of Asian hornets © 123RF-Bidouze Stephane

The main risk from Asian hornets comes from hornet nests near houses. At first the nest is small, spherical from the size of an orange then grows bigger gradually until reaching the size of a soccer ball in summer in the Asian hornet. “In summer, 70% of the colonies move to a new (secondary) nest generally located high up in the trees, but 30% remain in their primary nest (which can reach like the others 60cm in diameter on average in early autumn)” explains Quentin Rome. Those are the nests built at chest height which present the most dangerwhatever their size, since the major risk is the allergy resulting from a bite, the risk of which is increased if one approaches too close to a nest. Respect a safety distance of 5 m from the nest.

If the nest is close to a dwelling : we can call the fire department. “They only destroy nests if there is an immediate risk or if there is no insect repellent” says Quentin Rome. The cost of destroying nests can possibly be borne by the community (town hall, department, etc.), it is very variable. Otherwise it is necessary to call on private companies which can have a high cost, ask before. “You should know that a large part of the population only discovers the large hornet nests when the leaves of the trees fall at the end of autumn when they have been present since at least the month of June” reports the specialist.

Thanks to Stéphane Gayet, infectiologist and Quentin Rome, “Asian Hornet & Hymenoptera” Manager at UMS PatriNat
National Museum of Natural History (Paris).

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