Officials in B.C. and Washington state are teaming up to battle a common enemy — the murder hornet.
Officials are hoping to kill off the Asian giant hornet that has been found on both sides of the border after first being spotted in Nanaimo in 2019.
Late last year, a nest was discovered and destroyed in nearby Whatcom County, just over the border, but experts believe there are more in the area.
The real threat from Asian giant hornets — which are two inches (5 cm) long — is their devastating attacks on honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food.
The invasive insect is normally found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other countries in Asia. Washington state and B.C. are the only places the hornets have been found on the continent.
“This is not a B.C. problem or a Washington state problem, this is a collective problem that we need to address,” Paul van Westendorp, the provincial apiculturist for B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries told the media Wednesday.
“We do not work in isolation.”
This year, van Westendorp said they will be setting up more traps in the Fraser Valley and they will be monitored on a weekly basis.
The hope, he said, is if they have no more sightings by the end of 2021, “it would suggest hornets don’t like British Columbia and we would be very happy if that was the case.”
Eradicating the hornet nests is of great importance now because their life cycle typically begins next month when the queens emerge from hibernation.
Last year, no sightings or collection of Asian giant hornets were reported on Vancouver Island, which could be declared Asian giant hornet-free if no specimens are reported this year, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed.
The public has also been instrumental in battling the Asian giant hornets. Last year, the WSDA said half of the confirmed reports in Washington and all of the confirmed reports in B.C. were from members of the public.
“We had so much help,” Sven Spichiger with the WSDA said Wednesday.
“One-thousand-two-hundred people chose to hang traps and service them on their own dime.”
Spichiger said this year they have discovered a new mixture to attract the hornets, used on the east coast, will be a better bait than they have discovered before. This mix is one cup of brown sugar and one cup of water.
The focus for the WSDA this year will be in northern Whatcom County, he added.
Washington residents are asked to continue to report all sightings of Asian giant hornets to WSDA, via email or by calling 1-800-443-6684. British Columbians who think they may have seen an Asian giant hornet can report their findings to the Invasive Species Council of BC’s website, calling at 1-888-933-3722, or via the council’s “Report Invasives” mobile phone app.
— with files from The Associated Press