Facts About “Murder Hornets”
Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse, we now have the introduction of “murder hornets.” While recent North American data has only tracked their presence in Canada and Washington state, it is only a matter of time until they spread to the rest of the country as well. The arrival of the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has prompted many questions and concerns about the species. I, Matthew Davies, am going to walk you through the facts and help you manage the problem at your home.
Invasive non-native species are nothing new to North America, and I don’t think you should panic about it just yet. There have been discoveries of this species in years past, and they were eliminated appropriately. As a matter of fact, the threats that were found have already been resolved.
The critical thing to remember when it comes to invasive non-native species is this: Early detection is vital. Eradication can only be achieved when the problem is identified and dealt with early enough. Monitoring will continue now that we have found a couple of instances of the species. This will help others to be aware of the problem and report any future sightings.
The supposed recent discovery of the so-called murder hornets is not exclusive to 2020. The first instance of the insect was in the fall of 2019 on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. The hive was located and eradicated. Individual hornets were found in Washington State but posed no real threat as they were not able to mate. When a species is unable to mate, the problem will naturally take care of itself.
Contrary to popular belief, murder hornets have not been traced in 2020, despite what you may read in the media headlines. Entomologists that work closely with the bee community have confirmed there have been no sightings since the fall of 2019. That means there is no cause for alarm in Canada or Washington state. That is not to say that the species does not still exist, but if they do, they are on a much smaller scale than is being reported.
Even though there have been no confirmed cases of murder hornets in 2020, I would like to inform you that if you do, in fact, see one, you should report it immediately to the proper authorities such as the Department of Agriculture.
Non-native species pose a threat to ecosystems in and around the local area. A recent study showed that as much as $120 billion a year is dedicated to finding and eradicating non-native species, which are the second most significant threat to species endangerment behind habitat loss.
The biggest problem with the Asian giant hornet is that it preys on honeybees. Honeybees, as we know, are the reason we can have the fruits and vegetables that we enjoy each year. Without the bee, we will be unable to sustain the food consumption of these items. That is why it is essential that if you see one, you report it.
The next most significant problem is the hornet’s ability to kill humans. Don’t panic; one sting should not kill a person that has no allergic reactions to bees. However, multiple bites can prove fatal even to a person with no allergies to bee stings. The reason they are much more deadly than their honeybee counterparts is due to their size. They can deliver a lot more venom in one sting than a honeybee would in three or four (if it were possible for them to sting that many times).
Species Identification and Behavior
The Asian giant hornet is the largest hornet species that we know of. That being said, you will be looking for a hornet that is approximately two inches long, a large, yellow-orange head, long tear-drop shaped eyes, and a large mandible with orange and black stripes.
As will all hornets, they belong to the wasp family. It is important to note that these hornets will not attack you aggressively. The female will attack if she feels she is in any kind of danger. Therefore, if you get stung, it will be out of defense rather than offense.
There are two other wasps that people are misclassifying as murder hornets. Do a little web research and find out the differences between the murder hornets, the European hornet, and cicada killer wasp. The differences are subtle but significant.
Managing Hornets at Home
Most people don’t like bees or hornets, but it is important to remember they play a vital ecological role as pollinators, predators, and parasites of pests, and are part of the food chain. Below, you will find some helpful tips to co-exist with native species of bees and hornets.
- Avoid getting too close to any wasp.
- Never swat at a wasp for any reason.
- Never knowingly approach a nest hive.
- Should you discover a hive close to any high traffic areas of your property, I encourage you to call a professional to have the colony removed safely. This is not a project you want to do yourself.
- If you know you are allergic to bee and wasp stings, I always recommend you carry your epinephrine auto-injector with you. This is not just a rule for walking around your garden, but in general as well.
- Avoid blanket spraying chemicals. This can lead to killing off species that you never intended to kill off in the first place. Again, when in doubt, call a professional.
As a beekeeper, I, Matthew Davies, am very concerned if this species ever comes to stay in North America. Since they target honeybees, it will put our livelihood in jeopardy. That being said, I would like to remind you that as of this moment it does not seem to be an issue. Remember when you hear about something on the news, take time to research and find out the truth for yourself. What sounded like an invasion of murder hornets in North America has proven to be nothing more than an old sighting revisited.