New Brunswick·Video

New Brunswickers shouldn't worry about 'murder hornets;' says biologist

New Brunswickers needn't worry about all the buzz around 'murder hornets' because they wouldn't survive the cold winters, says biologist.

There are more threatening invasive species, and they're already in the province

A closeup of an Asian giant hornet is seen in this Washington state Department of Agriculture picture. (Washington State Department of Agriculture/Reuters)

New Brunswickers needn't be too concerned about the buzz around so-called murder hornets because it's unlikely they would survive in the province should they ever land here. 

Recently there's been a growing fear about the insect, largely because of its attention-grabbing nickname, after colonies of the Asian giant hornet were found in Washington state. 

But according to a biologist in New Brunswick, the winters here are too cold for the hornet.

"They wouldn't make it through our winter, I'm virtually sure, and so we shouldn't worry much about them," said University of New Brunswick professor Stephen Heard, who studies insect-plant interactions and specialized insect diets.

"They could show up here because almost anything could as we move goods around the world," he said.

Biologist Stephen Heard says New Brunswickers shouldn't worry about 'murder hornets,' because they wouldn't likely survive the cold winters, if they ever landed in the province. (Gary Moore/CBC)

The only known nest in this country was discovered — and destroyed — in Nanaimo, B.C., last September, but the hornets were also sighted in White Rock, B.C., in November.

Heard said whoever gave the Asian giant hornet the nickname "murder hornet" is both brilliant and misguided.

"What a name — how could you not want to learn more about something called a murder hornet?"

But while catchy, the nickname is misleading because the hornet is not hunting down humans.

"They don't murder anybody," Heard said. "They're not looking to find you, and track you down and murder you."

Heard said, like bees and wasps, Asian giant hornets would sting a person as a defence, and it would be quite "painful," but that's the limit of their danger to humans.

Problem for honeybees

A biologist says New Brunswick shouldn't worry about 'murder hornets.' 1:40
On the other hand, the hornets are a problem for honeybees. And, if they were to show up in New Brunswick, Heard said the biggest threat would be to commercial honeybee activity — beekeepers.

"The hornets make their living by going into beehives and predating on the bees," said Heard.

"If you're a beekeeper who uses hives either for pollinating crops or for production of honey then the hornets would be a threat to that."

Heard said the hornets wouldn't be a major problem to the native ecology.

"Because honeybees are only a livestock species here," Heard said. "They aren't an important species in terms of pollinating our native flowers or anything — we have many, many native bees and wasps and flies and beetles that do that."

Heard said all the attention the murder hornets are getting is a good reminder that species from elsewhere can become a problem.

"We have all kinds of invasive species that really are a problem," he said, adding that the smallmouth bass in the Miramichi River and the emerald ash borer are much more of a concern and are already in the province. 

About the Author

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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