Join the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), Dr. Samuel Ramsey, and Washington State University to learn about Vespa mandarinia and the threat they pose to honey bees (WSDA/October 6, 2021). YouTube Tips ⓘ
An interesting presentation on the threat of Asian Giant Hornets to honeybees was recently presented by Samuel Ramsey and Panuwan Chantawannakul with credits included to the USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, Maryland and Chiang Mai University, Bee Protection Laboratory, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Vespa mandarinia is the scientific name for Asian Giant Hornets or “Murder Hornets”, and scientists are concerned in the United States — especially in the State of Washington where Asian Giant Hornet nests have been discovered this year and last year.
While Asian Giant Hornets are only known to have created nests in the State of Washington, they could nest in Illinois, including a geographic band from Missouri to New York. There is concern that humans in the Asian Giant Hornet industry could spread to the United States. Yes industry, the larvae of the Asian Giant Hornet produce an amino acid mixture that may have pharmaceutical benefits. Harvesting the amino acid combination can be lucrative. Asian Giant Hornets could also accidentally be introduced into Chicagoland. Imagine a fertilized Asian Giant Hornet stowaway on a Boeing 747 freighter escaping when the cargo door opens, and flying to a Des Plaines River woods just east of O’Hare International Airport to overwinter and create a nest the following summer.
Entomologists are concerned with the safety of human beings regarding Asian Giant Hornets, but they’re more concerned with the more likely threat to the honeybee population.
Scientists have learned how Asian Giant Hornets attack beehives and how some bees protect their own hives. The presentation provides some tips for beekeepers, too.
There are three phases of the attack of Asian Giant Hornets on a beehive — the Hunting Phase, the Slaughter Phase, and the Occupation Phase.
During the Hunting Phase, a single Asian Giant Hornet arrives at the beehive or colony as a scout. The Asian Giant Hornet usually captures one bee and carries it to a tree nearby where it kills the bee and dissects a tasty sample of the bee (a thoracic muscle meatball) to bring back to the Asian Giant Hornet nest. The scout also tags the colony by smearing a pungent scent near the entrance to the colony.
During the Slaughter Phase, more than a dozen Asian Giant Hornets track the scent from the scout and destroy all of the adult bees in the colony. The adult bees are beheaded and ignored.
During the Occupation Phase, the Asian Giant Hornets make repeated trips between the beehive and the Asian Giant Hornet nest. The Asian Giant Hornets bring back honey and brood (young bee larvae) to their own Asian Giant Hornet nest. The beehive is then guarded as if it is part of their own Asian Giant Hornet colony.
Some bee species have defenses against the Asian Giant Hornet. One defense is the creation of a bee ball when multiple bees completely cover an Asian Giant Hornet and overheat and suffocate the Asian Giant Hornet with carbon dioxide. The movement of bees causes generation of heat and generation of carbon dioxide from bee respiration.
Some bee species have also learned to cover the scent tag from the Asian Giant Hornet with mammalian fecal matter — especially from water buffalo excrement in Vietnam. When the Asian Giant Hornet scent is erased or over-ridden by bees plastering water buffalo fecal matter over the Asian Giant Hornet tag scent, the Asian Giant Hornets cannot find their way to the beehive to launch their attack.
Some bee species try to sting the Asian Giant Hornet invaders, but that defense usually does not work.
The video presentation also shows smaller Vespa tropica or Greater Banded Hornets attacking a beehive. Their sting is also painful. Vespa tropica has a bright yellow band on an all black body — a beautiful but terrifying appearance.
Asian Giant Hornet stings of 12 or more can prove medically significant and even fatal according to the video presentation. By medically significant, the experts mean, put a person in an Intensive Care Unit. Even one Asian Giant Hornet sting can be extremely painful. Although the venom from Asian Giant Hornets is not as toxic as bee venom, Asian Giant Hornets can sting again and again, and have a much larger volume of venom. Asian Giant Hornet venom also includes kinins that swell human blood vessels, and histamine and acetylcholine that causes radiating pain. Too much venom from about 36 stings or more, can cause brain swelling, multiple organ failure, necrotic skin lesions, and death.
Walking past a nest may only cause a person to experience one or two stings from members of an Asian Giant Hornet nest or colony, but actually disturbing a nest by cutting down a tree or accidentally stepping on a nest could cause a significant number of stings that could be fatal. Elephants in Thailand have been known to be killed by Asian Giant Hornets when they have been chained to trees and have disturbed a tree where an Asian Giant Hornet nest is located. Some Asian Giant Hornet nests are huge as well. The video shows an Asian Giant Hornet nest with a diameter greater than 5 feet.
A standard bee suit does not provide protection against a swarm of Asian Giant Hornets, and any Asian Giant Hornet can sting through a bee suit.
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