In March, Washington State Department of Agriculture hosted a webinar regarding the Asian giant hornet. You may have heard it being called the “Murder Hornet.”
The Asian giant hornet is believed to have arrived in Canada and Northwest Washington from Asia. Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) initially believed that the Asian giant hornet could not survive in the cold climate of the Pacific Northwest; therefore, it was also believed that the Asian giant hornet would not be a problem. They have now, however, found as recently reported that one queen hornet has overwintered in Northwest Washington.
The Asian giant hornet primarily feeds on honey bees. When the hornet finds a beehive, they will emit a scent that attracts other hornets. They will work as a team to destroy all honey bees and feed on the honey bee larvae. Typically, this cycle begins in the late summer and early fall. With smaller hornets and intruders, the European honey bee can defend itself by stinging the offender. Currently the European honey bee, which is primarily in the United States, does not have a defense mechanism to ward off the Asian giant hornets.
How does this have an impact on beekeepers? Most beekeepers, such as myself, have protections set in place for our honey bees. There are numerous options available for beekeepers, for example: robbing screens, entrance reducers, and mouse guards. These tools assist honey bees in protecting their hive by preventing larger creatures entering the beehive. It has been advised by WSDA that the Asian giant hornet cannot fit in these small openings due to its size. I am choosing to leave my mouse guards on year round rather than just during the winter. As a beekeeper, I am on high alert and I will continue to monitor and protect my beehives as beekeepers do. I am worried, however, about the economic impact on native bees, such as bumblebees, who are already endangered. They do not have beekeepers to protect them. It is important to be mindful of the earth’s needs.
Be On The Lookout
The public has been told by WSDA that the Asian giant hornet is 1.8” long, has a wingspan of 3”, and its stinger is 1/4” long. The sting is very painful. There have been recent reports of excessive spraying of pesticides and killing bumblebees and other important pollinators. If you see an Asian giant hornet, please report it immediately to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. WSDA has photos, fliers, and other helpful information on their website to assist the public. Agr.wa.gov