An Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has been discovered about 100 miles north of Seattle, Washington, while the invasion of this species continues in North America,
An individual of the species was found on November 2 in block 7000 of the Bradner Road in Abbotsford, British Columbia, the Canadian provincial Department of Agriculture reported.
The ministry instructed beekeepers in the area to look for Asian giant hornets – popularly known as “murder hornets” – and report any specimens they see to the authorities.
The Vespa mandarin is native to parts of East and South Asia, including Russia, the Korean Peninsula, China, Taiwan, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Japan.
However, in August 2019, three Asian giant hornets were found in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in B.C., whereupon gamekeepers located and destroyed a large nest.
A month later, another individual was sighted in Blaine, Washington, about 55 miles east of the North American mainland.
Since then, there have been several more sightings in the border regions of western British Columbia and Washington State.
In October of this year, entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture successfully eradicated an Asian giant hornet nest in Blaine, the first to be found in the United States.
Scientists have found that the populations in British Columbia and Washington State could be from two different geographical locations – Japan and South Korea, respectively – according to DNA analysis published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.
These results suggest that the hornets were introduced into the Northwest of North America in rapid succession on two separate occasions.
Vespa mandarinia is the largest hornet species in the world and measures up to two centimeters in length. The insect has a painful sting, although it attacks humans only when disturbed.
Although they pose only a low risk to humans – apart from people allergic to bites – hornets could cause considerable problems for beekeepers on the continent if they establish themselves as an invasive species in North America.
Experts fear that the hornets that prey on honeybees and other pollinators could decimate the region’s hives. Western honeybees, as kept by beekeepers in North America, have no innate resistance to hornets, unlike their Asian counterparts.
“Economically, beekeepers should be particularly concerned; hornets can wipe out a hive in an hour or two,” Allen Gibbs, an entomologist from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, told Washington Newsday earlier.
“Honeybees already have many problems; these hornets would only cause them more stress. If honeybees were significantly affected, the crops pollinated by bees would suffer.