Three bee-killing Asian giant hornets have been found in the Nanaimo area, the first time the insect has been seen on Vancouver Island.

The three Asian giant hornets (vespa mandarinia) were found in August. The species was confirmed by Canadian and international experts. It’s also the first time the Vespa mandarinia species of the Asian giant hornet has been found in B.C.

The provincial government said is not known how the hornets, which are widely distributed in parts of China, Korea and Japan, arrived on the Island. The government added that it is possible they were transported with personal or commercial goods.

Asian giant hornets are known to feed on honeybees and are capable of destroying hives in a short amount of time. The invasive insects are able to eat up to 50 honey bees in a day.

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.

Asian giant hornets are large-headed and can vary in colour from different shades of orange, yellow and brown. Worker hornets are approximately 3.5 centimetres in length and queens can be up to four to five centimetres in length, with a wingspan of four to seven centimetres.

They only nest in the ground, unlike other species of wasps or bees that build nests and hives in trees and/or buildings.

Four species native to B.C. – the bald-faced hornet, yellow jacket, elm sawfly and northern horntail – are commonly mistaken for Asian giant hornets.

Four other several large insects that are native to B.C. and do not need to be reported. (B.C. government)

Four other several large insects that are native to B.C. and do not need to be reported. (B.C. government)

The B.C. government says hornets are generally not interested in humans, pets and large animals. They hunt insects for food, are not attracted by pollen or nectar and only attack when threatened or if their nest is disturbed.

People who see a hornet’s nest on their property are advised to avoid it and get professional help. Anyone who gets stung, as with wasp or bee stings, are advised to place an ice cube/pack or cold compress on the location to reduce inflammation and the spread of venom. People should not rub the site,  as it will cause the venom to spread into the surrounding tissue. People who are stung multiple times (10 or more) have a higher risk of developing toxic or allergic reaction, such as light-headedness or dizziness.

People who are stung multiple times or who develop symptoms of toxic or allergic reaction are advised to seek medical attention immediately.

Anyone who has a known allergy to insect stings should avoid any contact if possible and carry an epinephrine autoinjector (such as an epipen) during the summer season.

If a pet is stung by Asian giant hornets only once or twice, treat it the same way as other insect stings – apply cold compresses to reduce swelling and itchiness. If a pet is stung multiple times or has a severe reaction, seek immediate veterinary care.

British Columbians who think they may have seen an Asian giant hornet can report findings to the Invasive Species Council of BC at 1 888 933-3722, via the council’s “Report Invasives” mobile phone app, or at:  Those who have seen one are asked to take a photo if possible.