Country Life in BC

May 29, 2019

Asian hornet identified

by PETER MITHAM

BC beekeepers could be facing a new threat with the positive identification of a hornet native to Asia in Vancouver.

A female black-tailed hornet (Vespa ducalis) was caught in Vancouver on May 10. Researchers at UBC and Japan’s Hokkaido University Museum and Ibaraki University confirmed its identity this week.

Wasps are known to devastate colonies, wreaking particular damage in BC last year, but Asian hornets are in a class of their own. Growing up to 3.5 centimetres long – thrice the size of a honeybee – they’re opportunistic feeders that will prey on other insects.

The potential for the hornets to establish a foothold in BC has been a topic of concern for beekeepers. It was a cause of some buzz during informal discussions between sessions at the BC Honey Producers Association meeting in Victoria last fall. Some members reported sightings of out-sized hornets in the Lower Mainland, but no one had positively identified the interlopers.

Provincial apiarist Paul Van Westendorp told Country Life in BC that Japanese hornets were not known to be in the province, contrary to speculation.

BC Ministry of Agriculture staff could not provide immediate comment on steps that may be taken to mitigate the pest’s spread.

In the meantime, the province is proclaiming May 29 as honeybee day in BC. Displays on the front steps of the legislature will include honey tasting, observation hives and information about bees and other pollinators.

“They might be tiny, but they contribute so much to BC’s agriculture industry so come help me celebrate them!” exclaimed BC agriculture minister Lana Popham.

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