Beekeepers in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley and Lower Mainland are asked to keep an eye out for so-called “murder hornets” after two were found in the region within a week.
A single Asian giant hornet was found Saturday at Aldergrove, near the intersection of Fraser Highway and Highway 13 — about five km from where another was found at Abbotsford, on the 7000 block of Bradner Road, on Nov. 2.
No nests have yet been discovered in the area, and any Asian giant hornet activity is expected to decline “rapidly” as colder temperatures arrive.
Nevertheless, the provincial ag ministry on Tuesday called on beekeepers and the public to continue reporting any sightings to the Invasive Species Council of B.C.
The two new findings are believed to line up with a phase in the giant hornets’ life cycle, in which they disperse from their nests and seek out new hornets for mating, the province said.
The giant hornet is widely distributed in Asia, from southern China through to the Korean peninsula and northern Japan. It’s not known how it got to Canada’s West Coast but container ships have been suggested as the most likely mode of transport.
Apart from the risk to people and animals from stings — known to be particularly painful, given the size of the hornet — the main concern for farmers and honey producers is the risk to bees and other pollinators if the giant hornet is able to get established in the region.
Asian giant hornets hunt insects for food, are able to feed on honeybees and can destroy beehives within a short time period. They’re known to attack people or animals only if the hornets’ nests are disturbed.
Survey efforts in B.C. have so far focused on surveillance and trap monitoring along 0 Avenue — a road running parallel to the U.S. border, from the Peace Arch east to Abbotsford — and on Vancouver Island at Nanaimo, where a nest was found and destroyed last year.
Single hornets were found at White Rock and Langley in 2019, and on 0 Avenue at Langley in 2020, the province said, noting no nest has never been found in B.C.’s Fraser Valley or Lower Mainland.
However, the province noted, state entomologists in neighbouring Washington last month eradicated a nest after “multiple” findings of single Asian giant hornets in the same area of Blaine, just across the Canada-U.S. border from White Rock.
Asian giant hornets have noticeably large orange heads and black eyes, and are known to nest in the ground, rather than in trees or buildings.
The worker hornets of the species are usually around 3.5 cm long, while the queens can grow up to four to five cm long, with wingspans of up to seven cm.
Several large insects common to the region, including yellow jackets, bald faced hornets, elm sawflies and horntail wasps, could be mistaken for Asian giant hornets, the B.C. ag ministry said. — Glacier FarmMedia Network