Asian Giant Hornets unlikely this season, beekeepers remain on alert

MEDFORD, Ore.– An invasive species of hornet renowned for its vicious nature has been found in northwest Washington.

According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the hornets were found in the city of Blaine near the Canadian border. The website’s tracking database shows a nest was also confirmed and destroyed in a British Columbian city just west of Blaine back in September 2019.

In Oregon, beekeepers across the state have been notified about the Asian Giant Hornet and are keeping their eyes peeled. While it doesn’t target bees outright- it eats many other insects – beehives are considered a gold mine for the proteins the hornet wants.

Risa Halpin, president of the Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association, spoke with her contacts at the Oregon State University Extension Service in Corvallis to find out more about what they’re dealing with. She says the hornet, which can reach a size up to two inches, is attracted to the bee larvae.

“It’s protein and they will take some of the nectar as well,” said Halpin. “And they will chop bees in half and they’re after the thorax which is interesting.”

Halpin calls it a “wicked insect” and it’s believed just 10 or 12 can decimate a whole hive holding thousands of bees.

So far, Halpin says local beekeepers have not seen any sign of the hornet in southern Oregon. The spring is the time the hornets are most active as they search for food. Bees are also very active at this time of year as they prepare and stock up the hive for winter.

The extension service says it may be a few seasons before there are any signs but stopping them before they spread too far is important.

“It will not be present this season or probably next bee season here in the valley but it is something we need to be very aware of,” said Halpin.

Many people are concerned about the dangers the hornet poses to humans. While its stings are painful and toxic – see youtube personality Coyote Peterson getting stung by one – they only attack humans when they feel threatened.

Halpin says beekeepers can help protect their bees by finding ways to reduce the size of hive entrances to make it harder for the hornets to get inside. However, a normal beekeeper suit won’t protect you from the hornet’s stings.

For anyone that comes across one or potentially a nest, you’re advised to call your local department of agriculture. The public is asked to keep an eye out and report any potential sightings to to the local OSU Extension office as well.

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