B.C. beekeepers concerned about invasive Asian giant hornets
VANCOUVER -- There's a buzz swarming about an invasive pest that has an appetite for honeybees, causing local beekeepers to be on alert.
Asian giant hornets are considered a serious honeybee predator and were spotted in B.C. and Washington State last year.
Don Lamb, a hobby beekeeper in Pitt Meadows, said people in the community are concerned.
"They can kill bees really quickly," Lamb told CTV News. "A regular wasp, in a week or two, can devastate a hive whereas these guys can do it in an hour or two."
The hornets are five times larger than a bee with a stinger that can be toxic.
They were first spotted in Nanaimo last summer when an entire nest was discovered and later destroyed.
A single specimen was later found in White Rock in November and a month later, two more were found near Blaine, Wash.
B.C.'s chief beekeeper believes there is likely a nest in the Blaine area.
"We are working very closely with the Washington State Department of Agriculture to try to locate nests and then go through an eradication program," Paul van Westendorp, provincial apiculturist, told CTV News.
The question is how the hornets got to North America.
Analysis of the tissue from the specimen determined the hornets in Nanaimo were from Japan and the other specimen came from South Korea.
Experts don't fully know how they arrived to this side of the world but they speculate the insects somehow arrived in a container shipment.
"Perhaps that will guide harbour authorities to look more closely at some of those particular insects when they do come onto shore," he said.
He said the hornets are not interested in humans or livestock, but rather, other insects.
While people may not be a typical target, they kill an estimated 40 people in Japan each year, he said.
"These very serious stinging incidents…are when their nests are disturbed," he said, adding these hornets have hives on the ground, making it difficult for people to spot.
The Asiant giant hornets' reputation to wipe out an entire honeybee colony and its death count has triggered the nickname "murder hornets."
Van Westendorp said that name is sensational and it's "nonsense" for people to in B.C. to halt backyard barbeque plans as a result.
"These particular hornets are the apex predators of the insect world, there is no other insect that feeds on them. They're huge and therefore, they are very few in number," he explained.
The province has posted notices to residents along 0 Avenue from Surrey to Aldergrove to be on the lookout for the hornets that may be emerging from their nests.
Anyone who thinks they've seen an Asian giant hornet can report the sighting to the Invasive Species Council of BC at 1-888-933-3722.