Honeybees in Washington State are being decapitated and eaten by an invasive insect species from Japan called the Asian Giant Hornet.
Although they’re not in Florida now, people are still on alert.
“I think as a beekeeper anytime you hear of a pest that attacks your bees, it makes you nervous,” Tupelo Beekeeper Association secretary Shalome Clark said.
The Asian Giant Hornet, nicknamed the “Murder” Hornet for its attacks on honeybee hives, was first spotted in the U.S. In small areas of Washington State last year.
“People are pretty scared of the Asian Giant Hornet because it’s known to be the largest hornet in the entire world,” Amy Vu, University of Florida Honeybee Research and Extension Laboratory extension coordinator said.
Since then, the hornets have gone into hibernation. Now, they are waking back up.
“My understanding is they will decapitate a honeybee, and one Asian Hornet can eat up to 40 bees like, in a day,” Clark said. “So you can imagine if they had a whole hive of these hornets, how a honeybee hive would be decimated very quickly.”
As of now, the only reported sighting are in Washington State. The Washington Department of Agriculture is working to track down these hornets to make sure they do not spread to the rest of the country. It would affect the food supply chain.
“There are a lot of fruits and vegetables that you wouldn’t get to eat because bees pollinate a third to 35% of the food we eat that’s in the grocery stores,” Clark said
It would also affect the economy.
“So in Florida we have almost we have almost 5,000 registered beekeepers. We’re managing about 630,000 colonies in the state and honeybees are generally important as far as pollination for lemons, cucurbits like cucumbers, blueberries, and especially almonds,” Vu said. “So, we do have a lot of beekeepers that will take their honeybees out to the almond groves in California.”
But Vu says that she is confident in the department of agriculture’s efforts to contain it, which include setting traps and burning and discovered hives.
“The likelihood of the Asian Giant Hornet coming here to Florida from Washington is pretty slim,” she said. “All the specialists in Washington State say that it’s pretty slim. I mean, getting it outside of the area that it’s in right now is pretty slim.”
Although the species’ uncertain beginnings may be cause for concern.
“There are theories that it came with commercial goods,” Vu said. “They can’t fly this far, right? They can’t fly to the United States from Asia.”
Wu said that theoretically, the hornets could be transported the same way throughout the rest of the United States, and that the Department of Agriculture is closely monitoring the situation.