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The buzz about giant hornets

The buzz about giant hornets

It's hard to predict when these hornets may arrive in Ontario, an expert said

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

What’s the most important thing Ontario producers should know about Asian giant hornets or, as some people call them, murder hornets?
To date, “there have (been) no sightings and no records of the Asian giant hornet in Ontario,” Dr. Gard Otis told He’s an expert in honeybee biology and insect ecology. He’s also an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph. “When are (these hornets) going to get here? Well, that’s like asking when you’re going to win the lottery. It’s totally unpredictable,” he added.
These insects can be as big as a human thumb. Currently, Asian giant hornets can be found in such countries as China, Japan and Vietnam. People have also recently spotted these hornets in Vancouver, B.C. and Washington State.
Overwintering queens that have mated and are keeping warm under soil or other materials would have to be loaded onto a boat shipment that arrives in Canada in the spring. And more than one queen would have to survive to ensure enough genetic diversity, Otis added.
Otis studied the insects in Vietnam over a seven-year period starting in 2007. He documented how they affect bees.
When giant hornets have an established nest and their food needs are higher, they pose a risk to honeybees. The hornets see the beehive as a food source and will destroy colonies to access honey.
“That’s when beekeepers have problems,” Otis said. “The hornets just chop up the bees with their huge mandibles and have the hive to themselves.”
When looking for prey to eat, the hornets prefer grasshoppers and slow-moving insects like caterpillars.
Despite their nickname, single hornets are unlikely to attack unless provoked. If the nest is disturbed, however, the colony may swarm, Otis said.


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