Giant Asian Hornets – Should Beekeepers Worry?
Let’s face it. It seems that we beekeepers always have something to worry about. Our honey bees are under attack from one direction or another constantly. The over use of pesticides and herbicides contaminate bee food and water sources. Common beehive pests like the Varroa Mite, devastates thousands of bee colonies each year. And now, we have a new predator in the United States – the Giant Asian Hornet – nicknamed the “Murder Hornet”.
Native to east Asia and Japan, the Giant Asian Hornet (Vespa mandarinia) can reach a length up to 2 “long. A large hornet similar in size to a thumb, it has a yellow and orange head.
Living in colonies in the ground or the trunks of dead trees, the Giant Asian Hornet is a fierce predator. It can fly up to 25 mph.
A beekeeper’s suit is no protection from the long stinger and powerful venom of these predatory hornets. When provoked the hornets have a powerful, painful sting.
A human receiving multiple stings could die even if they are not allergic to wasp venom. In Japan, an average of 50 people are killed by these hornet attacks each year.
Asian Hornets Attack Hives
When a single hornet enters a bee hive, the bees are not without recourse. Hundreds of bees will “ball” the intruder and kill it. Score 1 point for the honey bees.
However, many hornets attacking a colony at the same time can devastate the hive. Hornets attack and kill adult honey bees, larvae and pupae. These hornets can decimate honey bee colonies in a matter of hours.
Many worker bees are killed in the fight. And, the loss of any baby bees or bee brood – dooms the honey bee colony.
The most likely time to experience problems will be in late Summer to Fall. During this time the hornet colony is at peak population.
In areas where hornets have been a problem, beekeepers have experienced piles of dead bee in front of the hives.
This is a similar scenario to a pesticide kill. When foraging bees come into contact with lethal pesticides it is common to see piles of dead bees in front of the hive.
However, after an Asian Hornet attack, piles of dead bees at the hive entrance are missing their heads.
The predator tears off the head of the prey (honey bee). The rest of the body is carried back to their nest to feed young.
The Murder Hornet was first spotted in the US in late 2019 in Washington state. Only 2 were confirmed at that time.
Since then, scientists, researchers and beekeepers across the country have been on the hunt for more sightings.
There have only been a handful of confirmed Giant Asian Hornets found.
What Should Beekeepers Do?
Naturally, beekeepers are concerned about this new bee predator. If you are a beekeeper concerned about your colonies, what should you do?
Be calm. Don’t panic. Listen for news of more sightings -especially in areas that are near you.
If you suspect a nest of giant murder hornets on your property, call your local extension agents. This is not a job for amateurs.
To date, there have only been a very few sightings of the Giant Asian Hornet in the US.
Most of the reported sightings are by people who are getting them confused with a more common yellow hornet.
This European Hornet (Vespa crabro) is a large yellow wasp that I see near my bee yards each year.
They are another common predator of honey bees. Area beekeepers are always on the watch for European Hornet nests too!
The arrival of the Murder Hornet in the US is certainly not good news for anyone. Beekeepers should be alert and watchful.
However, in truth, queen failures, lack of varroa mite control and other beehive management issues are a much bigger threat to most of our hives. At least this year….