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Asian hornet nest identification

Last edited: 3 January 2024
Author: GB NNSS

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Reporting Asian hornet

Report sightings of Asian hornet and suspected nests:

For assistance with identifying a suspected Asian hornet nest, or to help identify nests, please contact your local Asian Hornet Action Team

How to identify an Asian hornet nest

Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, produces two types of nest, primary and secondary:

Primary nests

  • Spherical with a small entrance hole at the base, usually 5 to 10 cm in diameter.
  • Built in spring by a lone Asian hornet queen, usually in a protected place such as brambles, a hedgerow, or in / on a building.
  • All primary wasp and hornet nests look similar, only report primary nests if seen with Asian hornets. To identify a nest, watch for returning insects from a safe distance.

An Asian hornet on a small primary nest

Example of a primary Asian hornet nest. Image John de Carteret - Jersey

Secondary nests

  • Pear-shaped, entrance hole halfway up the nest, up to 60 cm wide x 80 cm tall.
  • Usually found in trees, may also be in buildings and hedges.
  • Use binoculars to identify secondary nests from a safe distance. Do not disturb suspected nests and retreat from any wasp / hornet nests if flying insects are observed.

Composite image showing round grey Asian hornet nests in a tree with green leaves (left) and suspended from bare branches (right)

Secondary Asian hornet nests in trees in summer (left) and winter (right). Images John de Carteret - Jersey 

Composite image showing round grey / beige Asian hornet nests in a hedge with branches growing through it (left) and under the roof in a building (right)

Secondary Asian hornet nests in a hedge (left) and building (right). Images John de Carteret - Jersey

Common locations of nests 

Large tree in a field by a hedge. A large Asian hornet nest is high in the tree, a European hornet nest is embedded in a hole in the trunk, a common wasp nest is on the floor, a median wasp nest is in the hedge, a round Asian hornet nest is in the hedge, and an arrow pointing to the hedge shows where a primary Asian hornet nest (not seen) could be found

Common locations of Asian hornet nests and nests of other wasps and hornets. Tree image adapted from Trees in a hedgerow by Marathon, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Nests of similar species

Secondary Asian hornet nests may be confused with other wasp and hornet nests, or objects in trees. If you suspect you have seen an Asian hornet nest, please use binoculars to check from a safe distance before reporting.

European hornet, Vespa crabro - secondary nest

  • Usually in hollow trees, chimneys, rarely in the open air.
  • Cylindrical.
  • Wide opening at the
  • Usually 30 x 60 cm.

Beige striped European hornet nest with large opening at the base containing around 20 European hornets

Secondary European hornet nest. Image Crown Copyright.

Common wasp, Vespula vulgaris - secondary nest

  • Usually on the ground, or in confined spaces in buildings.
  • Round to conical.
  • Small hidden opening at the lower end.
  • Usually 30 x 35 cm.

round beige nest with stripes attached to the ceiling. No entrance is visible

European wasp nest. Image David Jones. 

Median wasp, Dolichovespula media 

Secondary nest

  • Usually in bushes that are less than 2 m tall.
  • Conical.
  • Small opening at lower end, off centre.
  • Usually 20 x 25 cm.

Primary nest

  • Characteristic tube-shaped entrance (unlike a primary Asian hornet nest).

Composite image showing cone shaped grey nest in hedge with a small entrance hold at the base (left) and a smaller round grey nest attached to a branch (right). This nest has a long tubular entrance hole coming off the base

Secondary (left,) and primary (right) median wasp nest. Left image Sarah Smith / A Euro-wasp nest - Pendomer, CC BY-SA 2.0 Generic, via Wikimedia Commons. Right image Karen McCartney.

Other objects in trees

  • Crow and magpie nests.
  • Mistletoe.
  • Squirrel dreys.

 A large tree with many branches and no leaves. A round dark mass can be seen in the tree which is a bird nest.

Birds nest in a tree. Image Crown Copyright.