‘Murder hornets’ are about the last thing anyone wants to encounter these days, and so far, it appears that there aren’t any more in Nanaimo.
Nanaimo beekeepers exterminated a nest of Asian giant hornets last fall at Robins Park in Harewood, and since then, there’s been no evidence that the species is still present on Vancouver Island.
However, Asian giants are the current plague du jour since a New York Times headline last week referred to them as “murder hornets” and warned of their arrival in the United States. Nanaimo Beekeepers Club member John Holubeshen, who was the first person in North America to be stung by an Asian giant hornet and who was one of the four beekeepers who eradicated the Robins Park nest, said he was on the phone with reporters all morning Monday.
The term ‘murder hornet’ is “an American media thing,” he said, adding, “yeah, they’re scary.”
In Nanaimo, he and other beekeepers are watching with interest to see if the hornets re-emerge this spring.
“If any are out there, they’ll start to be visible now,” Holubeshen said. “We are on the lookout for them, more for peace of mind. We don’t think there’s anything out there, at least locally.”
He’s recently made and distributed 50 traps, he said, along with instructions on how to use them. The traps are made out of two-litre pop bottles baited “with something fermenting,” typically beer or vinegar, and are meant to trap hornets or yellow jackets.
Nanaimo beekeeper Conrad Bérubé, who was also involved in eradicating the Robins Park nest, wrote in American Bee Journal earlier this year that the only Asian giant hornets that survived that strike were “straggler workers” that were found nearby.
“Every report that we got, at least with a photo, we were able to confirm that they were not Asian giant hornets,” Holubeshen said.
In late March, B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture asked residents in Surrey and Aldergrove along the U.S. border to report any sightings after a giant hornet was spotted in White Rock in November and two more specimens were found in Blaine, Wash., in December. The ministry warned that Asian giant hornets are an invasive species known to prey on honeybees and are capable of destroying hives in a short time period.
Holubeshen suggests that if people come across Asian giant hornets, they should resist swatting at them and try to get away from them with minimal movement, but should run for it once stung.
“Like honeybees, if you’re allergic, they can kill you – 10 stings will put you in the hospital and 40 will kill you, typically,” he said.
Bérubé wrote that the initial pain from an Asian giant hornet sting “was like having red-hot thumbtacks driven into the flesh,” and Holubeshen called it an intense and lasting physical pain.
“I would not want to get stung by these things again,” he said.
Sightings of Asian giant hornets should be reported to the Invasive Species Council of B.C. at 1-888-933-3722, via the council’s Report Invasives app or online at https://bcinvasives.ca/report.
— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) September 19, 2019