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ECOLOGICAL COMMENT: Asian giant hornet threat to North American honeybees

The “murder hornet” is the world’s largest and most dangerous wasp.
Hsiang Lin and Emily Day are second year Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students at Castlegar’s Selkirk College.

Submitted by Emily Day and Hsiang Lin

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) also known as the “murder hornet” is the world’s largest and most dangerous wasp. Not only do they pose a threat to humans, but native pollinators are at risk from these hornets. Honeybee colonies are defenseless against these so-called “murder hornets”. Native to southeast Asia, they have been found recently in Washington State and southwest British Columbia.

If the Asian giant hornets were to establish in British Columbia, they could destroy honeybees and other native pollinator species. In Asia, honeybees have co-evolved with Asian giant hornets, and so they have developed defense mechanisms. They form a “bee ball” to swarm a hornet, elevate its temperature, and cook it alive. Unfortunately, European honeybees, which are one of the main pollinator species present in North America, have not evolved such defenses.

Asian giant hornets are known for their unique style of killing their victims. They will enter a beehive and decapitate all of its occupants, using the thoraxes of the bees to feed their young. Although most of the time these invasive hornets are not aggressive towards humans, their stings are very painful and have been known to cause death.

Destruction of honeybee colonies could impact production of our locally grown vegetables, fruits, and delicious honey. British Columbians already pay higher food prices due to extremely hot summers and increased occurrence of wildfires. We don’t need the added problem of invasive hornets to reduce our crop production. We know how delicious locally-grown foods are, so we must do our part to keep watch and protect our native bee and our other pollinator species.

Many invasive species organizations and government agencies across North America have adopted an early detection, rapid response plan to control or eradicate the invaders. Once a sighting has been verified by professionals, immediate actions are taken to destroy known nests and resident hornets to prevent them from spreading. British Columbia and Washington State have implemented extensive monitoring programs to locate this invasive species.

Everyone should become familiar with the Asian giant hornet and be vigilant in reporting any possible sightings. They are large insects; 2.5 to 5 centimeters long, have a bright orange head with large jaws, and black eyes. Their thorax is dark brown or black, and their wings are dark brown. Their abdomen has orange and black horizontal stripes.

Free resources are available on the Invasive Species Council of BC’s website to learn how to properly identify Asian giant hornets. To report a sighting, take a picture of the hornet and report it through the iNaturalist app, the Report Invasives app, or

Emily Day and Hsiang Lin are second year Recreation, Fish and Wildlife students at Castlegar’s Selkirk College.

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Betsy Kline

About the Author: Betsy Kline

After spending several years as a freelance writer for the Castlegar News, Betsy joined the editorial staff as a reporter in March of 2015. In 2020, she moved into the editor's position.
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