Asian giant hornets have appeared in B.C. for the very first time, sparking fear among beekeepers.
The province’s Ministry of Agriculture said Wednesday three large insects found in the Nanaimo area in August have been confirmed to belong to the invasive species Vespa mandarinia.
Canadian and international experts confirmed the identities of the large insects, which can grow to at least 3.5 centimetres in length, with a wingspan up to twice as long. They are the largest species of hornet in the world.
Along with their size, Asian giant hornets are also known to prey on honeybees and destroy their hives, which the province says it is taking seriously despite the insects entering dormancy this time of year.
“The Ministry of Agriculture is investigating how it can assist beekeepers with surveillance and trapping equipment in the spring, should other hornets emerge from their dormancy or be introduced to the area,” the ministry said in a statement.
WATCH: (May 30) B.C. officials identify giant hornet found in North Vancouver
Asian giant hornets, including the related Japanese giant hornets, have been thought to be found in B.C. before, including a false sighting by a Vancouver couple in May.
The hornets can be deadly to humans, despite not being generally interested in them or animals. Experts say 10 or more stings can cause a toxic or allergic reaction that could prove fatal if not addressed immediately.
The true concern is for honeybees, which provide the hornets with protein. In Japan and other parts of Asia, local bee populations have been occasionally decimated.
Bees in those areas have since developed a method for killing the hornets by surrounding the invader and vibrating, generating heat and essentially cooking it to death.
But experts say bees in North America don’t exhibit that same behaviour, making the introduction of Japanese giant hornets in the region dangerous for their survival.
Because the hornets nest on the ground — as opposed to other hornets that nest in trees or buildings — residents are being advised to be extra cautious not to disturb the nests.
WATCH: (May 13) Possible giant Japanese hornet discovered in Vancouver
The province says anyone who is stung should use an ice cube or pack to reduce inflammation and the spread of venom. Rubbing the site of the sting causes the venom to spread to surrounding tissue and should be avoided.
Anyone who sees an Asian giant hornet or has information about their location should immediately make a report with the Invasive Species Council of B.C.