This post is meant to be cautionary. Doubt it if you must, but the Giant Asian Hornet has been verified in Washington state this year. This past June I encountered a Giant Asian Hornet in SE Alabama. I was moving dead brush around the homestead and sweating in the midday summer heat when I heard what I thought was a hummingbird hovering above my head. When I stopped walking to look up at it I was shocked as it wasn't a hummingbird but a giant hornet, hovering, definitely stalking me. It apparently didn't like that my eyes locked onto it because immediately it dropped down, first hovering onto one side of my head, and then zipped back over to the other side, and then it darted directly in front of my nose, looking into my eyes. I could feel the breeze from its wings. It was bullying me to see what my intentions were, and it was menacing, goading me to see if I would get aggressive with it. I am familiar with our native hornets, wasps, and even the Cicada Killer and I do have a Masters degree in Agronomy. I know my pests. I don't know how long it had me in a stalemate, but it was sufficient for me to burn its image into my brain. I know of the Asian Hornet from written sources, and THIS was one in every detail. Right down to the rich brown thorax and orange head. In a brief moment of rational thinking I reconsidered snatching off my baseball cap and swatting at it. I've read the Asian hornet is attracted to human sweat, shows no fear, and can move at mach speed, and I recalled the adverse effects of a sting, and my dominant thought was how am I going to get out of this ALIVE? I was about to go cross-eyed when it suddenly made up its mind I was a mama's boy, and it zipped up vertically, and then zoomed off horizontally at about 30-40 mph. I watched it out of sight. And was overcome with relief, which was replaced by the adrenaline built of what I had just encountered.
I only ask that you be aware and keep alert for this invasive beast. A queen can produce 30 new queens each season, new queens will mate upon exiting the hive in the fall, will overwinter, and nest in the spring; it can travel 60 miles in a single day, at top speeds of 25 mph in pursuit of prey. Unless I did my math wrong, exponentially in 10 years one mated queen could assure they are present at every bee social in the continental.
Here is an abstract from the web.
The Japanese, or Asian, Giant Hornet is a killer. An invasive species that seems intent on a manifest destiny — if such a thing exists with insects. The stinger of the Asian Giant Hornet is 1/4 inch long and because it has no barb, the Asian Giant Hornet is able to sting its victims multiple times. The venom injected by the stinger is incredibly potent and contains eight different chemicals, each with a specific purpose. These range from tissue degeneration and breathing difficulties, to making the sting more painful and even attracting other hornets to the victim. Adult working hornets can be nearly two inches long, with queens topping out at as much as three inches. Workers have three-inch wingspans. Those who have been attacked by this horrid creature always say they can’t believe the sheer size and ferocious menacing temper of these winged warlocks. They are so large that when they fly quickly around, some people have mistook them as hummingbirds, according to some reports. The Asian Giant Hornet is a relentless hunter and only a few are said to be able to completely wipe out a 30,000+ Honeybee colony in a couple of hours. The saliva produced by the larvae of the Asian Giant Hornet is said to give them their renowned energy and stamina when consumed on a regular basis. They can travel up to 60 miles in a single day, at a top speed of 25 mph, a speed more akin to the flight velocities of small birds. Aside from honey bees, Asian giant hornet also eats wasps, praying mantis and other hornets. Asian giant hornet does not hesitate to attack humans.
The species builds subterranean nests in cavities that it digs itself or that have already been dug by small rodents. These nests also can be found near rotted pine roots, in tree hollows, and even in urban structures. Nests are guarded aggressively. By the late summer, the population of the colony is at its peak with around 700 workers, most of which are female. The queen then begins to produce fertilised (female) and non-fertilised (male) eggs.