Check out this massive wasp

We heard you wanted to see a picture of a simply gigantic wasp. So here it is.

The Asian Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia
The Asian Giant Hornet, Vespa mandarinia


Q. Have I got one of these?

A. Lots of people have emailed and commented (see below) worrying that they have a specimen of V. mandarinia in their garden or house. Unless you live in temperate or tropical Eastern Asia the answer is “definitely not!”. The giant hornet cannot survive in Europe or North America and is unknown there. You’ve more likely got a European hornet Vespa crabro, found uncommonly in parts of both Europe and America and indeed quite a rarity in the UK. These creatures are smaller than the giant hornet but can still appear to be fearsomely large to anyone used to the common wasp. The European hornet is actually less aggressive than the common wasp (or ‘yellowjacket’ in the US), and although it looks fearsome, is less likely to sting. And although it will nest in urban and suburban situations, it prefers the countryside. So you don’t need to be too worried, if you leave them alone they will probably not bother you and go away.


Q. But I read in the paper that these things are in France, and going to invade the UK any day!

A. You might have heard of another Asian hornet found in France, Vespa velutina, which is a different species entirely and less harmful to humans. See here for more explanation about this and some pictures of the different hornet species.


Q. I’ve read all that, I live in Europe or America and I really do think I’ve got a giant hornet.

A. You haven’t, don’t worry. Read all the comments below and follow all the links.


Q. I know you’re wrong, this is definitely a giant hornet.

A. (sighs) If I’m so wrong, why are you wasting your insect-identifying skills on this humble and erroneous website? Go and get a job as an entomologist. See our follow-up post for more up-to-date information here See this page from the Natural History Museum for more info and reassurance. Want to get rid of wasps without killing them? Here’s one possible solution.

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  1. hey, thought maybe the naturenet people could chime in on this, a few years ago i saw what i now identify as a yellow jacket based on the furlessness and pattern of the insect, and it was about 7-8 inches long and about as thick as a grown mans clenched fist, thicker even, ive been wondering about that thing for years, it was on the side of a neighbors garage and was moving so i know it was real, i saw it and imediately ran away so i didnt get any pics, maybe you can tell me, are there other reports of such drastic wasp gigantism, whats the largest wasp ever recorded, could it have been something other then a wasp/ it was definitely in the bee family. thanks

  2. Is there a slight chance that the Asian Giant Hornet will make its way into Ontario, Canada anytime soon due to the fact that my girlfriend and I are both allergic to bee, wasp and hornet stings.

  3. You said the European hornet is rarely found in in Europe and America, which would mean I’d be very unlikely to encounter one, right? My husband and I saw two way-bigger-than-we’re-used-to hornets last summer, that kind of resembled the images for European hornets but looked maybe a bit more slender, just hanging out on the side of our condominium building. But if European hornets are rare in America, that’s probably not what we saw, right? We were too nervous to actually measure them, but I have a pretty good eye for spacial estimates, and these buggers were about 2 inches from bite-y end to sting-y end. What’s the biggest Bee or Wasp type insect you know of that’s likely to inhabit or pass through New Jersey?

    1. No idea, really: sorry. I’m in the UK and I don’t know much about American wildlife. But I know you have quite a few other native candidates as well as the European hornet – and they are not necessarily as dangerous as they look either. You might ask a Ranger from near you – they will know plenty about the local wildlife.

    2. I know this is three years old, but if you ever read this: There’s a solitary wasp in the US called a cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus). It fits your description quite well. It is in fact larger than the European hornet, and it is just as large as the Asian giant hornet worker. It is not aggressive, and as it is solitary; it is not dangerous at all. It is common in the eastern states.

      1. OH MY GOSH!! Thank you!! My husband and I just saw this last night! It was dragging a cicada across the lawn. We live in Nashville, TN and what you said lines up perfectly. I googled the name and yes, that is exactly what we saw. Glad to know it is not aggressive!

  4. I observed more than 2 giant wasp/bee yesterday at Buford (in front of the Mall of Georgia). Each of them appears to be living in a hole in the soil (underground). Because of that I decided to seach for more information at the internet. But I am not sure they were the same at the above picture (maybe not).

    The Ranger responds: no, it is not the same.

  5. I dont know much about hornets but that m*******r at the top of the page is a beast!! I hope none of those giant hornets end up in the UK! I hate wasps and bees as it is, so if i came across a hornet i dont know WTF i’ll do.

  6. Thank you for the info im doing a project on this at school.I have always been so freakin afraid of the little hornets in Canada now i have a whole other thing to worry about! (if i ever move to Japan which probably won’t happen.I have never got stung by a hornet,bee,wasp or insect before (besides a musquito.)

  7. Hiya, wonder if you can help. I live in NW England and a couple of weeks ago I saw, what I thought was, a queen bee. It was approx 3″ in length with a male bee attached to her back end (mating I presume?) I was amazed at the size of it, as was my daughter, son and a friend who happened to be there. My son has been asking to look at photographs on the internet of queen bees and when I started to look, I realised that what we saw was huge compared to the photos on the web. Can you enlighten us? We’re intrigued!

  8. On a camp out at FDR State Park in Georgia last weekend my son was stung by something after dark. I also notice lots of buzzing around me when I had my flash light on. What type of wasp/hornet/bee flies and stings after dark?


  9. Its a Sphecius, or cicada killer, its sting is a little less then a sweat bee, they are very large wasps and live underground, maybe this is what some ppl are seeing 😉

  10. Ok gave one to the park ranger, it was a small one, measured 2inches have picks… my friend says they’ve been there a few years

  11. There are very large hornets living in my nuddys back yard in northern Ohio, they are black and yellow with red wings and red legs… they are nesting in the dirt, and eat lots of other bugs … how do I post a pick, they look about 2″ maybe 1 1/2″

  12. I think most people are mistaking The European Hornet (Vespa crabro L.) to be The Asian Giant Hornet,(Vespa mandarinia).
    The European hornet (Vespa crabro L.) was first reported in North America around 1840 in New York state. It has spread to most of eastern U.S., as far west as Louisiana and the Dakotas. This is technically the largest and the only true hornet found in the United States. Adults resemble yellow jackets but are much larger (about 1½ in.) and are brown with yellow markings. At first glance they do look very large.

  13. Hello, we live in spain near Valencia and this weekend i found a very big wasp like insect on the wall of my house. I took some picters and it was app. as big as a vork without the handle. I don’t think it looks like the european hornet, it looks more like the asian one. Maybe i can send you the phote by e-mail.

  14. I live in the Fontainebleau forest in France and I can assure you that the vespa velutina is here in France. Except it’s slightly smaller than the vespa crabo here. We just had 1 in our house that was massive, about 5 cm and last fall towards winter we had one which was roughtly 8 cm. They’re dangerous, so we try to stay clear of them. Multiple stings means a trip to the hospital, so be careful. This page is in French, but gives a good idea of what they look like.

  15. I have a large pear shaped wasp nest that is petrified. This rock hard nest has two petrified limbs pentatrating the top and the side and is 12 inches long x 9 inches diameter. The weight is 15 pounds. My question is; How rare is this? What kind of wasp/hornet made it? Will the value chage if it is sawed down the middle? kent

  16. That is a huge wasp. It’s almost unbelievable!! I can’t imagine what kind of trap we’d have to build to catch that thing if it flew around here!

  17. 4th March 2011,
    Just experienced what I thought was a massive queen wasp in my country cottage bathroom – we regularly get wasps in there all summer – in rural Bedfordshire. Thanks to this website I now believe it to be a European Hornet. Big tho’

  18. I agree with all the information you have given about the differences and how easily they are mistaken but I stand witness that Euopean Hornets are definitely not more docile than most wasp, bee’s or hornets found here in the U.S.
    Ive had numerous encounters with most of the species that “hive” in the southern U.S., provoked and unprovoked and have found the European Hornet to be one of the nastiest, not only that, their sting rivals the scorpion and the cow-ant.
    Is the Asian “killer” hornet’s toxin very potent or is it just their mob mentality and powerful jaws that give them their name?

    1. I just watched a video on The Asian Giant Hornet and I got to tell you that the venom they carry will dissolve you skin and the stinger will leave bullet sized holes in you..

  19. I live in a country house in the Cotswolds and regularly have Hornets around the house, particularly at night when a light is left on in the house. Apart from the obvious attraction to light, I’ve also noticed that the Hornets travel in pairs – I only ever seem to see two at any one time, and wondered if this is a known behavioural trait of the Hornet?

    I have some good photos I can email if you’d like.

    I’ve also noticed a lot more people seem to be sighting Hornets lately – are they becoming more common?

  20. Had two big buzzing hornets in my bedroom at night . So I put a lamp on the window sill, turned of the light in the room, waited till they flew to the lamp, closed the window, switched of the lamp, waited till they cleared off ,then retrieved my lamp. Hey presto! wasps gone without death, stings or hysteria.

  21. One of these giant hornets flew into my igloo the other day and stang me on the arse. And don’t say it wasn’t an Asian Giant Hornet, because it definitely was. And what’s more it was a foot long, easy.

  22. Please let me know where to send a picture to! I found this one in my house in Lilburn, GA. It has no reddish color on it only a very faint pale yellow and black coloration. It is aggressive as it is trying to bite me through the drinking glass I have it in.

  23. I was only joking in regards to sending them via post, but unfortunately was unable to photograph them either, if I find another one in fireplace I will endevour to capture and photograph them. Found another that was already deceased so was able to study more closely. I found that it was a female (based on the number of segments of the abdomen (6) but could not remove the soot in order to get a decent photo

  24. Found a second Hornet but it appears different from the first.On the first the head had a different colour pattern as it was mostly all yellow round the eyes and on the back of the thorax it was black. The second one found in the same place as the first is coloured differntly but is the same aprox. size. On the back of the thorax of hornet 2, it is more brown and has hair unlike the first. Is it possible that they are the same species with different gene expression in terms of colour variation? Hornet 1 appears to be identical to your photo of the asian hornet thus my being convinced initially of its’ identity

  25. I have these asian hornets!if you like I can mail a carcas to you. I’m in NC,US

    The Ranger responds: no, most likely a big European hornet. Especially if it’s brownish in colour. Don’t mail me anything, it’ll never get through customs, but if you’ve got some really good quality close-up photos, especially of its head and face, that might be interesting.

  26. I’m just going to second everything The Ranger has been saying. I live in Japan (I’m from America), and these hornets are MUCH bigger and much more aggressive than anything back in the States. I’ve seen some pretty big hornets in the States (a nest of some pretty big ones lived underneath the sidewalk in front of my house), but nothing compared to these. When these things are flying around, they look more like orange cicadas than wasps or hornets.

    I’m scared of bugs anyway, but as soon as I hear one of these things flying around–they’re very loud–I get away as fast as possible. They’re very temperamental and will follow you around just for going near them.

  27. Hi,

    I work in a very old building in the south of the UK and 3 days ago I found a standard European Hornet crawling on the floor. It could not fly and I put it in a jar. I thought it was some giant wasp but discovered it was a hornet. It still crawling around and feeding off some honey I put in the jar. I now assume it is a queen looking to hibinate. As it cannot fly is it likely to survive and how can I return it to the wild and give it a fighting chance of survival?

    The Ranger responds: maybe give it a bit of water too, in some cotton wool or something similar. Then just put it out in a shed or garage somewhere, leave the jar open so it can crawl out and let it take its chances. It will die, or recover, or go off and become dormant for the winter.

  28. Hi!

    I posted here (further up the page as Martha still) in May 2007, probably under a different e-mail addy. I can’t get a good pic of this one however its exactly the same as the one on this link…

    As I said before some of them are even bigger!

    The Ranger responds: sorry, when you said 2hrs ago I didn’t look as far back as 2007! My apologies, and welcome back. The hornet in the video is a normal UK hornet, nothing exotic or scary there. the key characteristic is the ‘gingery’ colour which the European hornet displays – this is a big specimen but definitely not anything to worry about.

  29. Hi!

    I posted on here about 2hrs ago in relation to these giant hornets, I hadn’t seen any more of them up until a few months ago and now there is a nest of these horrific creatures in a tree next to my house, I’ve caught one of them and tomorrow I’m calling out pest control they are all HUGE! some are bigger than my thumb! I think that there is a cover up here so as to not cause panic because last time nobody wanted to know! They do look identical to the Asian hornets (which are now taking over in France killing all of their honey bees!) If they wipe out honey bees then humans will die out 4years later so KILL them!!

    The Ranger responds: this is the first post of yours we’ve received. Feel free to send us a pic if you like. The hornets discovered in France are a different species:Vespa velutina. This blog post is about Vespa mandarinia. Different species, different habitat requirements. Vespa mandarinia will probably never be able to survive in the UK. V. velutina has yet to be detected in the UK nor are they likely to be there yet… although eventually they may arrive if global warming continues.

  30. you are a ****** *** cause ive seen an asian hornet in ct my co worker came across a nest a couple years back and there is no way in hell you can tell me it was just a european hornet cause these things were enormous as big as the palm of my hand. an iknow ur prob jus gunna say they cant survive our climate but these things can fly 60 miles a day so i dont find it impossible 4 them to migrate or hibernate if they nest under ground they could easily survive here

  31. hey i live in mexico , in the mesophilic forest area, we were curtting some fire wood when in the middle of the trunk a 1 inch hole, inside a 3 inch white folded up insect…looks like a wasp…
    it is still embrionic? or pupae? but huge.. just about the size of the asian one.

    The Ranger responds: quite a few insects pupate inside dead wood, especially beetles. Doubtless your one is a wasp or bee that does the same. I don’t know anything about Mexican insects but that’s not at all unlikely. What you have is a pupa. It won’t mature now but if it had survived it would probably come out as an adult next spring.

  32. Yes, I live in the USA (Va) and we have had European Hornets for years. They do resemble the Asian hornet but are not as large. They are somewhat docile and even come out at night around lights! I’ve told my children not to be afraid of them, however, after all these years, my son accidentally stepped on one that had gotten in the house. It was excruciating. I looked them up and now realize that they are responsible for destroying my apples and pears right on the trees!

  33. I had a Giant Asian Hornet in my Kitchen last year and also saw three in the garden. Two others were verified and reported in the local papers. This is Oxfordshire. Last week a man died in Oxfordshire due to being stung by a Giant Asian Hornet (as pictured) The species has been verified, so they must be living here now.

    The Ranger responds: pics please, and reference for who identified it, and the death. I can’t find any reference to this incident. Ta.

  34. the same flying insect was on the back of my garden steps…i was totally freaked out…couldnt get into my house lol i live in the uk too…is there an epidemic in the uk with these very large hornets? and how did they get here..quite worrying as we all know about evolution and how all things adapt to new climates and surroundings same with whales in the ocean and yet we’ve had a siting of whales here in essex and also dolphines…what does this mean for us as the uk arent obviously prepared for such creatures

  35. Oh my gosh, TWO in a week. They were both easily 1.5 inches long. Two Queens? If they were the males I certainly do not want to encounter the Queen.
    Arizona-Natives have not seen them here so maybe they are new?
    I have heard what the Ranger said but, wildlife weather insects, bugs, or beasts are unpredictable. Nothing is ever aggressive until it’s aggressive. EX: “My dog has never bitten any one before” Then he bites someone.

  36. I have just come back from brittany in france and I have seen two of these hornets – they are definately in Europe!!!!

  37. I was in Korea in 2001 and was stung by these about my head and face. It is the worst pait I have ever felt. It feels like boiling acid being injected in my face and they BITE hard, draw blood with there bites. They sound like a plane when they flwy past your head. If overseas be careful when dealing with them.

  38. just looked up another site and it seems what I have is a hornet queen of our native small hornet..holy u know what…

    The Ranger responds: Well how can I resist? Of course I’d love to see your pics/vid. Sounds interesting! Alas your email is bouncing – can you resend?

  39. Just had the crap scared out of me and the kids by a huge hornet (UK) got a picture and film of it. I used to live in the States and I had digger wasps in the garden as the cicadas were hatching. Now those were big angry beasts..I got some powder to put on their burrows which it said do at dusk when they are asleep..those suckers never slept! as soon as you would approach it was like a spitfire coming at you!

    This beasty reminded me of them but didnt have any stinger to mention on it. Anyways if you want pics / video let me know and ill send them to you.

  40. I live in Collioure on the Med Coast in France, bordering Spain. Every evening I walk past what I presume is a nest of some kind of hornet. I don’t get close enough to measure and wouldn’t like to guess at what size they are, just massive, and quite fat as opposed to slim like a wasp or UK hornet.
    They are black with just TWO very distinctive and bright yellow bands at the upper end of their body. I tried to get a photo but they are far too quick. Any ideas?