Beekeepers are unlikely to forget 2020 in a hurry in Washington State and the Canadian province of British Columbia.
The fear of Vespa mandarinia, a giant insect whose voracious appetite for honeybees and creeping spread could pose a threat to the fragile ecosystem of the area, has gripped experts in both regions since spring. I pressed [the queen]on her thorax… And this enormous stinger came out.
And the massive mandibles were shifting and trying to bite me.
While the eradication of an Asian Giant Hornet nest in Washington in October was a success, authorities in northern Canada encountered a number of setbacks in their own effort to eradicate the hornets. This summer, in order to destroy the invasive insects, British Columbia’s chief beekeeper, Dr. Paul van Westendorp, and his team used bottle traps, streamers and radio transmitters
The issue is that the Asian giant hornet is extremely difficult to find, considering its size, since it prefers to remain in wooded areas. There’s nothing authorities can do to find it unless a person happens to notice it. “It’s been pretty frustrating,” says van Westendorp. But since it’s an apex predator, it’s rare and far away.
And it doesn’t help that their nests are mostly underground.”‘ Killer Hornets: Race to protect the honeybees of North America from giant invaders.”
In November, two hornets were spotted in the area, although their locations indicate they are from various populations.
“Recently, in his laboratory, van Westendorp handled the live specimen of a mated queen who had been discovered by an observer citizen: “I pushed [the queen]on her thorax a little bit, which she did not like very much.
She arched her abdomen, and out came this big stinger.
And the enormous mandibles moved and threatened to bite me,’ he says, expressing his enemy’s profound admiration. “In an attempt to map the battlefield, van Westendorp recorded all confirmed sightings of the hornet in British Columbia – one in 2019 and five in 2020 – and found they cover an area about 350 square kilometers in size. The hornets’ range is 7 km from their nests. “For no obvious reason or background, we end up with six spots in a fairly wide area,” he says. “They are only random points on a map t Winter means they have abandoned their nests and are hiding from the mated queens. Few are going to survive, but those that do have a chance to create nests of their own. For much more than honey bees, the Asian giant hornet is a threat. “Vespa mandarina is an opportunistic predator, which means it also feeds on native insects such as grasshoppers and even the yellow-cheeked hornet, which can not defend itself against its sting, mandibles and venom. It is difficult to imagine that if they are established, Alison McAfee “They are so high up the food chain that they prey on other predators,” says entomom McAfee, “they would not have a significant impact on the environment. “It’s hard to imagine that they won’t have a big impact on the ecosystem if they can really establish themselves. “One glimmer of hope for entomologists is that genetic diversity is lacking in hornets and their colonies, a crucial characteristic required for survival in new and sometimes hostile environments. “A lack of genetic diversity is a big problem for a species that is spreading into new regions it didn’t know existed before,” McAfee says. “It’s actually not 100 percent clear that they’re here to stay,” says McAfee. However, enough sightings have shown researchers that the hornets in both British Columbia and Washington have developed at least some form of beachhead. For next year and the year after, Van Westendorp is already preparing his strategy: “We’ll be back in the new year with more traps,” he says. And the year after that as well, if we need to.
“It could be a long battle. “Click here for more coverage of the Age of Extinction and follow biodiversity journalists Phoebe Weston and Patrick Greenfield on Twitter for all the latest news and posts.