An Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has been discovered around 100 miles north of Seattle, Washington, as the species’ invasion of North America continues,
One individual of the species was found on November 2 in the 7000 block of Bradner Road in Abbotsford, British Columbia, the Canadian province’s Ministry of Agriculture said.
The ministry told beekeepers in the area to keep a lookout for Asian giant hornets—popularly referred to as “murder hornets”—and report any specimens that they see to the authorities.
Vespa mandarinia is native to parts of eastern and southern Asia including Russia, the Korean Peninsula, China, Taiwan, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Japan.
But in August 2019, three Asian giant hornets were found in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island in B.C., with wildlife officials subsequently locating and destroying a large nest.
A month later, another individual was spotted in Blaine, Washington—around 55 miles to the east on the North American mainland.
Since then, there have been several more sightings in the border regions of western British Columbia and Washington state.
In October of this year, entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture successfully eradicated an Asian giant hornet nest in Blaine—the first to be found in the United States.
Scientists have found that the populations in British Columbia and Washington state may originate from two different geographical locations—Japan and South Korea respectively—according to a DNA analysis published in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America.
These findings suggest that the hornets were introduced to northwestern North America on two separate occasions in quick succession.
Vespa mandarinia is the largest hornet species in the world, measuring up to two inches in length. The insect possess a painful sting, although they will only attack people if they are disturbed
While they pose little risk to humans—apart from those who are allergic to stings—the hornets could create significant problems for beekeepers on the continent if they become established in North America as an invasive species.
Experts are concerned that the hornets, which prey on honeybees and other pollinators, could decimate hives in the region. Western honeybees—the kind that are kept by beekeepers in North America—have no innate defense against the hornets, unlike their Asian counterparts.
“Economically, beekeepers should be especially worried; the hornets can wipe out a hive in an hour or two,” Allen Gibbs, an entomologist from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, previously told Newsweek.
“Honeybees are already facing many problems; these hornets would just add more stress to them. If honeybees are significantly affected, bee-pollinated crops would suffer.”