The fact that the mammoth Asian giant hornet has recently appeared for the first time in Washington state is very ominous. Agricultural officers have issued an alert and warned the public that these hornets are a threat to honey bees.
Asian giant hornets also showed up in Canada just a few months ago in August 2019, and British Columbia’s agriculture ministry issued a similar advisory.
Asian giant hornets are the greatest nightmare honeybees can be subjected to, based on the reputation they have made for themselves elsewhere globally. They can wipe out an entire beehive.
They have yellow heads and are almost 2 inches long with a wingspan of close to 3 inches across. They tend not to be aggressive towards humans, but their stingers are about 6 millimeters long and can inflict considerable pain. For humans who are allergic, a sting can cause death. The advisory states one should stay away from their nests.
This National Geographic video is under 4-minutes. The images of the Asian giant hornet will help you know it if you see it.
Honeybees are already challenged by a long list of obstacles to their survival. Parasitic Varroa mites, toxic pesticides and herbicides, lack of water, a shortage of diverse wildflowers, monocultures, bacterial pathogens and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), amongst other problems.
The Asian giant hornet could be their biggest threat yet. Indigenous to Asia, this is a creature that frightens humans as well as honeybees. Experts say that in Korea it is known as the yak-killer hornet, the commander wasp and in Taiwan it is called the tiger head bee.
On December 8, 2019, just 30 miles south of Vancouver, Canada, a dead Asian giant hornet was found by a resident of Blaine, Washington, on the Canadian border. Entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture collected it and confirmed that it was an Asian giant hornet. The resident reported another hornet had flown around a hummingbird feeder, then disappeared into a forest. These large hornets are mostly dormant in the winter and nest in the ground.
Professor Berenbaum, head of Entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the Asian giant hornet is the sworn enemy of the honeybee, and is a bee’s worst nightmare. She says it is likely the hornets were stowaways on a trans-Pacific ship, and their arrival was likely due to an accidental transport. She says Asian honey bees have developed defenses against the Asian giant hornet over time, unlike honeybees in other parts of the world. When a hornet gets into their nest, they pounce on the hornet and generate enough body heat to kill it.
In recent months we blogged about these Asian giant hornets and how they have invaded Europe. Britain has launched a proactive offensive to keep them from settling on the British mainland. These hornets feed on honeybees and can wipe out a hive in no time.
Anybody who spots an Asian giant hornet anywhere, should take a photo of it and report it to the local office of the Department of Agriculture right away.