The Asian Hornets were spotted in Washington State in December and though some experts claim a cross-country invasion seems unlikely, others are worried that containing the infestation may be impossible. Should a few of these deadly hornets hitch a ride in a truck, sightings of the deadly insect may crop up anywhere in the country.
An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer investigated the possibility of the Asian Hornets covering the 2,700 miles to invade Pennsylvania. Michelle Infante-Casella, an agricultural agent for Gloucester County with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension, told the Inquirer that such an infestation was highly unlikely though not impossible. Prevented by distance and the altitude and low temperatures of the Rocky Mountains, Infante-Casella explained that the threat is that they will be transported by vehicles.
“So the concern is not the migration of the Asian giant hornet, but the inadvertent transport,” she stated in an email.
Dina M. Fonseca, director of the Center for Vector Biology at Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J., agreed, saying in the article, “It is important not to overreact. … We do not expect them on the East Coast.”
“Big invasive jumps are relatively rare, and almost without exception associated with human movement,” Fonseca said in the email.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that the first confirmed sighting of the Asian giant hornet was documented in the U.S. on Dec. 8 in Blaine, Washington. A resident reported finding a dead hornet on his property. It was later identified as an Asian giant hornet by the Washington Department of Agriculture. In a previous sighting, an Asian hornet was found on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, in September.
Three more potential sightings have been reported in Washington, with two reporting that honeybee colonies were attacked. Beekeepers said they started seeing a potential invasion in October.
But some experts are indeed worried about the invasion of the giant Asian hornets reaching the East Coast. Chris Looney, an entomologist at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, told the NYT the US invasion is a “serious problem”.
“This is our window to keep it from establishing,” he said. “If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”
An article in the New York Post interviewed retired Police Department beekeeper Anthony Planakis.
“I told the NYPD back in 2012 … ‘Your problem is not the bees. This [hornet] is your problem,” Planakis said.“I showed them a picture of it, and they go, ‘What the hell is that?’ ” Planakis said. “I go, ‘That is an Asian hornet. My [beekeeper’s] suit is useless against that thing.’ ”
Planakis said he expects them to arrive in the East at least in the next two to three years. “All it takes is a few hornets, and you’ve got a colony,” Planakis said.
The Post also interviewed Manhattan beekeeper Andrew Cote, who said it “could be years before they make a foothold [on the East Coast] — or they could end up in the back of somebody’s truck and be here in four days.”
Either way, the carnivorous insect “is here to stay” in the US, he said.
“We can expect them to be everywhere on the continent in time. … It’s a done deal,” Cote said. “There’s no way to contain it to the West Coast.”
At two inches long and with a wingspan of three inches, Giant Asian Hornets are deadly. Their stinger is up to 10 millimeters long and contains a potent neurotoxin called mandaratoxin, which, in cases of multiple hornets stinging simultaneously, can kill a human. A single hornet can sting multiple times, and cause tissue necrosis, extreme pain, respiratory issues, liver damage, and blood clots, features commonly associated with snake venom. But people who are allergic to the venom can suffer anaphylactic shock and die from a single sting. Each year in Japan, the human death toll caused by Asian giant hornet stings is around 40-50. Nests are often found in urban settings and the hornets are aggressive by nature.
Native to southeast Asia, they are most common in rural areas of Japan. Unintentionally introduced to France in 2004 in a shipment of pottery, the aggressive species quickly spread at a rate of 60-80 kilometers each year. They invaded Spain in 2010, Portugal, and Belgium in 2011, Italy in 2012, Germany in 2014 before crossing the Channel into Great Britain in 2016.
It is not known how or where the hornet first arrived in North America but a nest was discovered in 2019 on Vancouver Island in Canada. Later that year, the Washington State Department of Agriculture confirmed a report of a dead specimen on the U.S. side of the border adjacent to Vancouver, the first report of this species in the United States. There were a total of four sightings of Giant Asian Hornets in Washington State last year.
In addition to the threat Asian Hornets pose to humans, they feed on honey bees and can devastate hives, eating up to 50 bees a day. Two dozen hornets can lay waste to an entire honeybee hive in a few hours, killing all the worker bees, taking over the hive, and claiming the larvae and pupae as a food source. Japanese honeybees kill hornets by swarming over them and roasting the hornets alive with their body heat. most bees in the Northeast are European bees and they don’t tolerate the kind of body heat that is generated with an offensive swarm.
April and May are the period the hornets became especially active and can swarm.
Controlling the killers does not come cheap. In a study published by NeoBiota, researchers estimated the costs of control and nest destruction from 2006-2015 in France at over $25 million with only 30%-40% of detected nests being destroyed. The cost is similar in the UK.
Sometimes translated as ‘a plague’, hornets (הַצִּרְעָה) are a key element in Redemption and, according to the Bible, helped the Hebrews conquer Israel after the Exodus from Egypt and like all the plagues, are prophesied to return in the end-of-days.
I will send forth My terror before you, and I will throw into panic all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn tail before you I will send hornets (הַצִּרְעָה) ahead of you, and it shall drive out before you the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites. Exodus 23:27-28
Should you say to yourselves, “These nations are more numerous than we; how can we dispossess them?” You need have no fear of them. You have but to bear in mind what Hashem your God did to Pharaoh and all the Egyptians: the wondrous acts that you saw with your own eyes, the signs and the portents, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm by which Hashem your God liberated you. Thus will Hashem your God do to all the peoples you now fear.Hashem your God will also send hornets (הַצִּרְעָה) against them, until those who are left in hiding perish before you. Deuteronomy 7:17-20
The Bible states in the book of Joshua that the land was conquered with the help of these hornets.
I sent hornets ahead of you, and it drove them out before you—[just like] the two Amorite kings—not by your sword or by your bow. Joshua 24:12
The government has called on the public to notify them via a cell-phone app concerning possible sightings.