The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), also known as the “murder hornet”, is the largest and most dangerous wasp in the world. Not only do they pose a threat to humans, but native pollinators are threatened by these hornets. Bee colonies are defenseless against these so-called “murder hornets”. Native to Southeast Asia, they have recently been found in Washington State and southwestern British Columbia.
If Asian giant hornets were to establish themselves in British Columbia, they could destroy honey bees and other native pollinator species. In Asia, bees co-evolved with Asian giant hornets and therefore evolved defense mechanisms. They form a “ball of bees” to swarm a hornet, raise its temperature and cook it alive. Unfortunately, European bees, which are one of the main pollinator species found in North America, have not evolved such defenses.
Asian giant hornets are known for their unique style of killing their victims. They will enter a hive and decapitate all its occupants, using the bees’ thoraxes to feed their young. Although most of the time these invasive hornets are not aggressive towards humans, their stings are very painful and have been known to cause death.
The destruction of bee colonies could impact the production of our locally grown vegetables, fruits and honey. People in British Columbia are already paying higher food prices due to extremely hot summers and increased wildfires. We don’t need the added problem of invasive hornets to reduce our agricultural production. We know how delicious locally grown food is, so we need to do our part to monitor and protect our native bee and other pollinator species.
Many invasive species organizations and government agencies across North America have adopted an early detection and rapid response plan to control or eradicate invaders. Once a sighting has been professionally verified, immediate action is taken to destroy known nests and resident hornets to prevent further spread. Both British Columbia and Washington State have extensive monitoring programs in place to locate this invasive species.
Everyone should familiarize themselves with the Asian giant hornet and be vigilant in reporting any possible sightings. They are large insects; 2.5 to 5 centimeters long, have a bright orange head with large jaws and black eyes. Their thorax is dark brown or black and their wings are dark brown. Their abdomen has orange and black horizontal stripes.
Free resources are available on the Invasive Species Council of BC website to learn how to correctly identify Asian giant hornets. To report a sighting, take a picture of the hornet and report it through the iNaturalist app, the Report Invasives app, or bcinvasives.ca.
Emily Day and Hsiang Lin are second year Recreation, Fisheries and Wildlife students at Selkirk College in Castlegar.