We heard you wanted to see a picture of a simply gigantic wasp. So here it is.
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 Europe, and a few times in the UK, 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.