Murder hornets, Asian giant hornets, giant sparrow bees…whatever you call them, they sound terrifying, and there’s now a confirmed sighting in Canada.
On May 26, a BC beekeeper received a letterfrom Provincial Apiculturist Paul Van Westendorp confirming that an insect she’d sighted and photographed was indeed the so-called “murder hornet,” which has a wingspan that can reach around seven centimetres and a burning venomous sting.
“Recently, a specimen of the Asian Giant Hornet (AGH) Vespa mandarinia was found and collected just south of Langley,” writes Van Westendorp. “The Langley find indicates that AGH may have established nests farther into the Fraser Valley than had been anticipated. It is expected that more sightings will be reported.”
The letter also stated that an autopsy and DNA sequencing would be performed on the specimen to determine whether it was a queen or worker and its origin, and confirmed the only other mainland specimens were found in White Rock and Blaine, Washington.
“As nests increase in size, AGH is expected to increase its predation on honeybees,” writes Van Westendorp, asking for reports with photos of any further sightings.
While many people have reported sightings of the Asian giant hornet in Ontario, there have been no confirmed specimens in the province.
Although the moniker certainly is striking to humans, they’re actually so named because of their diet of honey bees and other insects.
Dr. Gard Otis, retired University of Guelph professor and insect expert says they’re actually quite “docile” when out foraging, recounting how he once was surrounded by a swarm of 20 giant hornets with no protection and was able to gently push them away with a light touch of the hand.
He says a single hornet isn’t likely to sting or attack an average person coming across one unless you try to grab or interfere with it. You’re mainly in trouble if you encounter a colony of hundred or thousands of hornets and happen to accidentally step on the nest.
“That would be really bad. I wouldn’t want to be there when that happens.”