Animal Planet: The Asian Giant Hornet is one of Japan’s deadliest killers — public enemy #1 for thousands of years. A recent increase in attacks has Evolutionary Biologist Armand Leroi, PhD very concerned (Animal Planet/2015).
In September 2019, Cardinal News reported the first official discovery of the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) in North America — specifically Nanaimo, British Columbia in Canada in August 2019.
Four months later, not surprisingly, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) entomologists identified a large hornet found near the Canadian border. They identified the hornet as an Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), an invasive species not previously found in Washington State.
On December 8, 2019, a resident in Blaine, Washington near the Canadian border reported an unusually large hornet they found on their property. Two days later, WSDA visited the site, collected the specimen, which was dead, and confirmed its identity a short time later.
The resident also reported seeing a live giant hornet at a humming bird feeder before it retreated into a nearby forest. Blaine, Washington in the United States is about 55 miles east-southeast of Nanaimo, British Columbia.
Adult Asian Giant Hornets can be nearly two inches long, have a distinctly light-orange head with prominent black eyes, a black thorax and a black/yellow striped abdomen.
WSDA described the Asian Giant Hornet as not typically aggressive toward humans, but that the unwelcome pest can inflict a powerful sting. WSDA also warned the presence of the pest represents a threat to honeybees, for which Asian Giant Hornets have a voracious appetite.
WSDA and Washington State Department of Health (DOH) officials ask people in the area to be on the lookout for the Asian Giant Hornet, and take precautions to avoid contact with these large bugs. Asian Giant Hornets have been described as the deadliest animal in Japan, where the Ministry of Health reports that 30 to 40 people per year are killed by all types of stinging wasps, bees and hornets. The peak number of patients treated at Saku General Hospital in Nagano Prefecture occurs in August with 90 percent of patients treated between July and September. Asian Giant hornets are typically dormant over the winter, and are most often seen from July through October, similar to the slightly smaller European Hornets (Vespa crabo) established in North America since the mid-1800s.
The hornets are likely to be aggressive if a human accidentally ventures too close to their nest.
Asian Giant Hornets nest in the ground. WSDA reports Asian Giant Hornets are typically not interested in attacking humans, pets or large animals; but a ground nest is easy to encounter accidentally. The Asian Giant Hornets can inflict a painful sting with a large amount of tissue-destructive venom if their nest is threatened, or disturbed by simply stumbling upon it. Stings from multiple Asian Giant Hornets can result in death.
The WSDA offered health advice regarding the hornets, citing the Washington Department of Health (DOH). If stung, DOH recommends people wash the sting site thoroughly with soap and water and applying ice or a cold compress to reduce swelling. The agency also recommends an antihistamine or use of an anti-itch cream to reduce itching if necessary. For individuals stung multiple times or with symptoms of a severe reaction following a sting, the DOH recommends calling 911 or seeking medical care immediately.
DOH advises individuals take preventative measures in the outdoors by keeping food and drink covered or under screens, and cleaning up by disposing food and garbage properly. People should avoid swatting at the hornets, which may cause these insects to sting. In nature paths, fields, or woods; people should pay particular attention to their footing, so they don’t step on a ground nest. People should also be aware of increased concentration of large flying hornets flying in a space in the wild, and avoid such spaces.
People are advised by WSDA to avoid the hornets because of their large stinger and higher volume of venom in a sting.
Among five hornet species, researchers M. Matsuura and Sh. F. Sakagami (see source below) describe Asian Giant Hornets as the most aggressive toward humans that appear or advance near hornet nests. Aggressiveness was ordered as Vespa mandarinia > Vespa mongolica > Vespa crabro > Vespa analis > Vespa tropica.
Another negative factor of Asian Giant Hornet is their threat to bees, bee hives, and apiaries. Asian Giant Hornets feed on honeybees and are of particular concern to beekeepers because they are capable of quickly destroying honeybee hives.
Asian Giant Hornets are described by M. Matsuura and Sh. F. Sakagami as having three phases of killing honeybees — a hunting phase, a slaughter phase, and a hive occupation phase. In the hunting phase, Asian Giant Hornets attack bees with only two to five hornets — continuously over a prolonged period. They can continue attacking bees without completely destroying the nest. The hornets bite the bees to death with their mandibles — often cutting them in half. The hornets may or may not advance to the next phase. In the slaughter phase, the researchers report visits by 20 to 30 hornets at a hive usually resulting in deaths of 5,000 to 25,000 bees in one to six hours. In the occupation phase, Asian Giant Hornets occupy the bee hive and become predators of honeybee pupae and larvae. Some hornet species prefer stored honey, but Asian Giant Hornets want the larvae. In fact, Asian Giant Hornets prefer tree sap to honeybee honey.
WSDA confirmed the December sighting is the first time this invasive species has been detected in Washington State. WSDA explained that in August 2019, a large colony of Asian Giant Hornets was discovered and subsequently destroyed in British Columbia. The BC Ministry of Agriculture issued a pest alert about the detection in September 2019.
Responding to the Asian Giant Hornet
In 2020, WSDA will conduct outreach to generate public assistance in looking out for the Asian Giant Hornet and reporting any detections to the WSDA Pest Program.
Additionally, WSDA is preparing plans to set traps in the Blaine area to monitor for Asian Giant Hornets.
WSDA requested that if any citizens spotted an Asian Giant Hornet, they should report it to WSDA’s pest program and, if possible, include a photo.
After a hornet queen lays hundreds of eggs, her workers set about feeding the larvae chewed-up prey. With tiny waists, the workers can’t digest solid food; they instead subsist on drops of amino acid from the larvae.
After two weeks of encasement, it’s time for the larvae, now adult hornets, to leave their silk cocoons. Get an intimate look at the moment one hatches and begins to experience life in its shiny new form (Smithsonian Channel/2016).
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Not sure what was happening here, but this is good closeup video of Vespa tropicalis or Vespa ducalis (not confirmed). Vespa ducalis was discovered in North Vancouver (Metro Vancouver) in May 2019.
Vespa ducalis (black-tailed hornet) is only slightly smaller than Vespa mandarinia (Asian Giant Hornet). Vespa ducalis is reported to exist in mainland China, Hong Kong, northeast India, Japan, the Korean Peninsula, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Vespa ducalis was discovered in North Vancouver, British Columbia.