Asian Hornet genome



We’re representing the Asian hornet, Vespa velutina, in the I’m a Scientist, Get Me Out of Here 25 genomes competition.

The 25 genomes competition is being run to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Twenty species have already been selected. Members of the public, including school children, are voting for the final five species in the competition.

We’re championing the Asian hornet – a dangerous invasive species that poses a huge threat to bee populations in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. See for details.

You can help us by voting online now! It only takes a minute!

Go to Login with a social media account. We’re in the Dangerous Species Zone!


How will the genome help?

Firstly, we’ll gain insight into the genetic basis of the adaptations that make the Asian hornet such a successful invader. Similar work is already underway on several other invasive species, including the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), and the fruit fly (Drosophila suzukii). We’ll gain better knowledge about the genetic details underlying sex and caste-determination in the Asian hornet, and the kinds of odours and attractants that this species is sensitive to. This knowledge could be used, for instance, to target males and manage populations by limiting reproduction.

Secondly, we’ll be better placed to monitor populations. The genome will provide us with a rich resource with which to develop markers for tracking the invasion. We’ll also be able to better monitor genetic diversity to identify which sub-populations have been or are likely to be more susceptible to certain types of management programme.

Thirdly, we’ll be better placed to consider options for environmental engineering strategies. For instance, in an extreme scenario we might need to look at using biocontrol options or gene editing approaches. One possibility would be to introduce so-called RNA guided ‘gene-drives’ to spread traits like male sterility through invasive populations. This would represent an enhanced version of the sterile insect technique used to manage fly and mosquito populations. Detailed knowledge of the genome would be essential if work of this nature were to be undertaken.

We’ve compiled a short list of articles below for anyone who wants to know more.


Our poster

Please distribute and spread the word on social media!



Further reading

McKenna, D.D., Scully, E.D., Pauchet, Y., Hoover, K., Kirsch, R., Geib, S.M., Mitchell, R.F., Waterhouse, R.M., Ahn, S.J., Arsala, D. and Benoit, J.B., 2016. Genome of the Asian longhorned beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis), a globally significant invasive species, reveals key functional and evolutionary innovations at the beetle–plant interface. Genome biology17(1), p.227.

Ometto, L., Cestaro, A., Ramasamy, S., Grassi, A., Revadi, S., Siozios, S., Moretto, M., Fontana, P., Varotto, C., Pisani, D. and Dekker, T., 2013. Linking genomics and ecology to investigate the complex evolution of an invasive Drosophila pest. Genome biology and evolution5(4), pp.745-757.

Asplen, M.K., Anfora, G., Biondi, A., Choi, D.S., Chu, D., Daane, K.M., Gibert, P., Gutierrez, A.P., Hoelmer, K.A., Hutchison, W.D. and Isaacs, R., 2015. Invasion biology of spotted wing Drosophila (Drosophila suzukii): a global perspective and future priorities. Journal of Pest Science88(3), pp.469-494.

Vera, M., Díez‐del‐Molino, D. and García‐Marín, J.L., 2016. Genomic survey provides insights into the evolutionary changes that occurred during European expansion of the invasive mosquitofish (Gambusia holbrooki). Molecular ecology25(5), pp.1089-1105.

Lees, R.S., Gilles, J.R., Hendrichs, J., Vreysen, M.J. and Bourtzis, K., 2015. Back to the future: the sterile insect technique against mosquito disease vectors. Current Opinion in Insect Science10, pp.156-162.

Oye, K.A., Esvelt, K., Appleton, E., Catteruccia, F., Church, G., Kuiken, T., Lightfoot, S.B.Y., McNamara, J., Smidler, A. and Collins, J.P., 2014. Regulating gene drives. Science345(6197), pp.626-628.

Esvelt, K.M., Smidler, A.L., Catteruccia, F. and Church, G.M., 2014. Concerning RNA-guided gene drives for the alteration of wild populations. Elife3, p.e03401.

Webber, B.L., Raghu, S. and Edwards, O.R., 2015. Opinion: Is CRISPR-based gene drive a biocontrol silver bullet or global conservation threat?. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(34), pp.10565-10567.

Article about gene editing in invasive fish:

Hagenblad, J., Hülskötter, J., Acharya, K.P., Brunet, J., Chabrerie, O., Cousins, S.A., Dar, P.A., Diekmann, M., De Frenne, P., Hermy, M. and Jamoneau, A., 2015. Low genetic diversity despite multiple introductions of the invasive plant species Impatiens glandulifera in Europe. BMC genetics16(1), p.103.

Tsutsui, N.D., Suarez, A.V., Holway, D.A. and Case, T.J., 2000. Reduced genetic variation and the success of an invasive species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences97(11), pp.5948-5953.