Asian giant hornets are unwelcome on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border and officials and citizen scientists will be trapping and exterminating accordingly.
B.C. and Washington state governments co-hosted a virtual press conference Wednesday to discuss their co-operative efforts to find and eradicate the invasive hornets.
A B.C. ministry of agriculture press release noted that “comprehensive surveys” will take place in Nanaimo and the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island and in between White Rock and Aldergrove in the Fraser Valley. Washington announced changes to its trapping efforts and hopes “citizen scientists” will help set up traps baited with orange juice and brown sugar syrup.
Provincial apiculturist Paul van Westendorp said he’s grateful for a pheromone “magic elixir” provided by the Washington State Department of Agriculture that will be used in some traps. There were about 60 traps, baited with orange juice and rice wine, set up in areas close to the U.S. border last year and van Westendorp said a greater number of traps will be set this year “simply because of the increased activity that is taking place in Washington state.”
Last year, six hornet specimens were collected in the Fraser Valley, all found by members of the public, and none were found on Vancouver Island. The province says the Island “could be declared Asian giant hornet-free” if no more of the insects are found there this year.
Van Westendorp said numerous agencies, beekeepers and other members of the public will play a “critical” role in the success of the survey efforts and said the province will be providing more information about trapping.
He said Asian giant hornets, as an apex predator, are not very densely populated in their natural range.
“They will be there and they’re very dangerous when you actually run into them, but the number of them is going to be very limited and that is in fact one of the main reasons we have so much trouble finding these darn nests, because there are so few of them around,” van Westendorp said.
Sven-Erik Spichiger, managing entomologist with the WSDA, said the giant hornets found in Nanaimo in 2019 were genetically linked to giant hornets from Japan, whereas the hornets found in Blaine, Wash., were more closely linked to hornets in South Korea. Van Westendorp said that suggests separate introductions of the species has happened and can happen again.
Asian giant hornets have been called ‘murder hornets’ because of their propensity to decapitate honeybees. Van Westendorp said the hornets are hazardous to humans, pets and livestock and not only kill bees, but also wasps and yellow jackets, which could cause unknown impacts on ecosystems.
“When you ask what is the serious threat, even past your dog or heaven forbid your child stumbling into a nest while walking through the woods, having an apiary taken out in … less than a week and the massive expense that a beekeeper would incur and what the ramifications are of having a beekeeper who is trusted by a farmer to come by and perform pollination services the next year, there are some cascading effects to agriculture that are actually really severe,” Spichiger said.
British Columbians can report Asian giant hornet sightings to the Invasive Species Council of B.C. by calling 1-888-933-3722, using the council’s Report Invasives mobile app or visiting http://bcinvasives.ca/take-action/report/.