Oriental hornet - Vespa orientalis - Frelon oriental
Oriental hornets are much the same size as our native European hornet, in fact the workers and males reach 2.5cm long maximum while the queens measure up to 3.5cm long.
It is not known precisely how the first oriental hornet observed in France got there, but since, in the past, queens have already been found in Belgium and Great Britain in citrus cases from Israel it can not be excluded that the hornets found in the south of France arrived on a cargo trip with the port of Marseilles as their destination. Here the industrial wastelands located in urban spaces where the first individuals were spotted are ideal places for the species to establish themselves.
To date, it is difficult to anticipate the future of the oriental hornet on French soil since it failed to established itself in Great Britain and Belgium. The same may apply in France. However, since males, queens and workers have been observed in Marseille, this indicates that a colony has indeed existed there since at least 2020. It is to be feared that the warm climate and mild winters will provide the conditions for them to prosper.
They are easily distinguished from the other two species of hornet to be found in France, (Asian Hornet & European Hornet), by their colouration, their head, thorax and part of the abdomen are dark rust almost reddish, while the tip of its abdomen is bright yellow, which allows a reliable identification since no other species of the genus Vespa has this characteristic. Its appearance is glabrous although it is hairy but so flush that it is hardly visible. Its legs are also dark red. Brown antennae have 13 divisions in males and 12 in females.
As with our native European hornet they are not agressive apart from when they sense a threat to their nest or when experiencing other threatening behaviour. Their venom isn't dangerous except in cases of allergy, the sting presents the same degree of danger as those of European hornets or bees.
They are diurnal and live in small colonies (maybe 1000), initiated by fertilized females coming out of hibernation in spring. The initial stages of the nests is built by queens and can be installed either underground or above ground in a cavity, an enclosed place such as a rock crack, a hole in a wall or ceiling, an empty hive, etc. It is sometimes possible to discover them under the eaves of a house where they will be enclosed by an outer skin that does not exist around the nests when they are in enclosed locations.
As with other hornets and social wasps the Queens, workers and males die at the end of the season and do not survive the winter, but the fertilized new queens survive to make new nests the following year. This can be several kilometres away, thus extending their range with a capacity for dissemination whose scope is still unknown.
They take a range of insects to feed their larvae including honey bees
The oriental hornet, (Vespa orientalis), has an extensive range that crosses the Balkans, Bulgaria, Turkey, southern Europe (Italy including Sicily, Malta, Cyprus), East and North Africa, the, Middle East, and still extends eastwards to Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Nepal and India.
As this is a new introduction to France it's too early, (Sept 2022), to say whether they will establish themselves in France and if so to what extent.