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We know that a lot of you are hearing about the Giant Asian Hornet, which is being called by a super scary name. You do not need to panic or freak out about this. Here are some things we wanted to share, since Ruby has been following this for a year, not just since the media pounced on this story yesterday. Folks have been anticipating the arrival of this invasive species for several years, so there are robust networks in place to identify and track these insects.
There have been very few confirmed sightings of the giant hornet in the US and Canada. TWO of these hornets were identified and confirmed in Washington State in 2019, and a nest was found and destroyed in British Columbia. This year, ONE was found in British Columbia (near the site where the nest was) and ONE was found (dead specimen) in Washington state in May of 2020. The reason these were found is because there is (and has been) a huge effort in the PNW to educate beekeepers and the public to identify and trap them, so that we can stop the spread. Additionally, a few have been identified in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Yes, they look scary and their sting sounds very bad, but generally speaking, you do NOT need to panic about this.
If you are a beekeeper, you ALSO do not need to panic about this. You do need to educate yourself, know how to identify them (and how to differentiate them from cicada killers which look similar and are also quite large), and if you’re in the PNW, it is a good idea to learn how to trap them and install a trap near your apiary. Here is the information on how to build a trap for them (they are TOO BIG for the normal yellow jacket/wasp traps).
Calling this insect a “murder hornet,” a moniker that has come up seemingly overnight, is really inaccurate and unnecessary.
The Asian Giant Hornet Watch / Washington State Department of Agriculture has already posted announcements warning people to stop killing random bees they see, thinking they are these giant hornets. Apparently people are killing bumblebees, which breaks my heart because they LOOK NOTHING LIKE A HORNET.
If you think you see one, TAKE A PICTURE OR VIDEO and get the fuck away from it.
Don’t try to kill it because 1. you’re probably wrong about what type of insect you’re killing, and 2. if you’re right, you’ll likely get stung which sounds truly terrible.
To report an Asian Giant Hornet sighting, contact the Washington State Department of Agriculture Pest Program at 1-800-443-6684, email@example.com or online at agr.wa.gov/hornets.
For questions about protecting honey bees from hornets, contact WSU Extension scientist Tim Lawrence at (360) 639-6061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some scary claims being made and their basis in reality:
They can sting through a beekeeper’s suit: True, but so can all wasps and all hornets and also honey bees (ask me how I know).
Their sting can kill you: True, if you are allergic one sting can kill you. If you’re not allergic, typically it takes multiple stings for fatality to occur. FYI, you can also die from being stung by many other insects that are more populous in the US. So the risk is low.
They kill about 50 people per year in Japan, the country where they are most prevalent – there are 126 million people living in Japan so the risk of dying from being stung is 0.0000432%. Given there were only 2 confirmed Giant Asian Hornets in the US (and they were killed), your risk is considerably lower than that.
They murder honey bees: True, but so do LOTS of other wasps and hornets (I’ve had two hives killed by yellow jackets), as well animals such as as skunks, marauding humans, and bears.
Honey bees in Japan have demonstrated a defensive behavior against these hornets in which the bees surround the hornet and literally cook it with the heat coming off their bodies. (This is a behavior common among honey bees in response to hornets or wasps trying to rob their hives; however the University of Washington has said honey bees here in the US have not used this behavior defensively against these hornets).
P.S. For the love of all things holy, can we retire the “murder hornet” name? It’s so stupid and nobody needs any extra inspiration to panic right now.