About Those Asian Giant Hornets… — Bug Squad

An Asian giant hornet from Blaine, Wash., to be published n the journal, Insect Systematics and Diversity. (Photo by Allan Smith-Pardo of the USDA)

From the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (Kathy Keatley Garvey):

The sensationalism. fear-mongering and general panic surrounding those Asian giant hornets, aka “murder hornets,” detected last year in British Columbia and Washington state, are enough to curdle both the blood and the brain.

First there were the Africanized honey bees, which sensationalists called “the killer bees.”

Don’t even mention “assassin flies” or “bullet ants” or “deathwatch beetles.”

Now there are the Asian giant hornets (AGH), Vespa mandarinia, which sensationalists have dubbed “murder hornets.”

“It’s ridiculous to call them murder hornets,” says noted UC Davis wasp expert and researcher Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology and professor of entomology, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.

“It’s no more likely to sting and kill a human than a honey bee,” said Kimsey, a two-term past president of the International Society of Hymenopterists, an organization that studies bees, wasps, ants, and sawflies.

“Actually it’s less likely, as honey bee venom packs quite a punch and it is exclusively designed to defend against vertebrates,” she said.

“The colony everyone is hyperventilating over was actually found on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, last September when it was destroyed and then a single, dead hornet was found in December in Blaine, Wash.,” Kimsey said. “There is no evidence that there are any more hornets in the vicinity of Vancouver or anywhere else on the West Coast.”

A screen shot of the Washington State University Extension Fact Sheet on the Asian giant hornet via UCANR.

A colony of the Asian giant hornets was found and destroyed Sept. 18, 2019 in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island, and the single dead hornet was found Dec. 8, 2019 in Blaine.
These were the first detections of this species in North America, but there may be more, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). Beekeepers have reported “observations” (which may or may not be the same species) dating back to October 2019, according to officials in Washington State University’s Department of Entomology and Cooperative Extension. They and the beekeeping organizations want to know what’s out there and they want folks to keep a lookout for them.

Said Kimsey: “A decade or more ago there was a colony of another species, Vespa asiatica, reported near the Port of Long Beach but nothing ever came of that either. A European species, Vespa crabro, was introduced into the East Coast perhaps a century ago and it is now fully established in the southeastern U.S.”

Kimsey points out that insects often come in cargo boxes from Asia to U.S. ports, establish colonies, and expand their range.

A soon-to-be-published article in the Entomological Society of America’s journal, Insect Systematics and Diversity, promises to shed more light on the genus and the history of introductions in the United States.Kimsey and colleagues Allanmith-Pardo of the USDA and James Carpenter of the America Museum of History, New York, co-authored the review article.

In the abstract, the authors define Vespa as social wasps that are “primarily predators of other insects, and some species are know to attack and feed on honey bees, Apis mellifera, which makes them a serious threat to apiculture.”

“Vespa nests can be physically large, with over 1,000 workers, but usually with hundreds of workers,” they wrote. “Nests can be aerial, attached to tree branches or in shrubs, in crevices, under eaves or underground depending on the species. Depending on the latitude, nests can be either annual, started by a new queen every spring, or perennial, where young queens take over from old ones. Colonies in warm tropical climates tend to be perennial.”

Washington State University (WSU) Extension recently published an AGH fact sheet, the work of three scientists: Susan Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist and husband Timothy Lawrence, county director of Island County Extension (both formerly of UC Davis), and Mike Jensen, county director of Pend Oreille. (See https://bit.ly/2SA3TxS)

Yes, hornets are huge. They measure about two inches long, and the queens can fly up to 20 miles per day, said Cobey, who examined specimens in Japan last December and shipped some of them to WSU.

The WSU scientists wrote that AGH “is the world’s largest species of hornet, native to temperate and tropical Eastern Asia low mountains and forests. The hornet is well adapted to conditions in the Pacific Northwest.”

“The primary purpose of venom is defense against predators by inflicting pain and damage,” they wrote. ”Vespa mandarinia is one of the two most venomous known insects in the world.. The amount of venom each wasp delivers (4.1 μl/ wasp) has designated V. mandarinia as the most venomous insect. In comparison, the honey bee has about 0.6μl/bee. When foraging for food in spring, the AGH is not highly defensive – unless its nest is disturbed. Late summer and fall, with the high demand for protein, they become very aggressive when attacking or occupying a honey bee colony.”

“It is critical that we identify, trap, and attempt to eliminate this new pest before it becomes established and widespread,” they wrote. “Attempts to contain the spread and eradication of this invasive insect will be most effective in trapping queens during early spring before their nests become established. Finding the nests can be a bit of a challenge. Their nests are typically in the ground though they can also be found under overhangs and within wall voids. The AGH is a strong flier and often will fly up and away and have an extensive flight range. Thus tracking can be difficult.”

They advise residents to “proceed with extreme caution and contact WSDA immediately. Do not try to exterminate the nest yourself.”

Entomologists call them Asian giant hornets or Vespa mandarinia.

Social media?

Murder hornets.

Could we just go back to calling them Asian giant hornets or AGH or Vespa mandarina?


Slides: Colorado River Basin Water Supply Briefing — #ColoradoRiver Basin Forecast Center #runoff #snowpack

Click here to view the slideshow.

Arkansas Valley Conduit will provide fresh water to towns of Southeastern #Colorado — The Mountain Mail

Arkansas Valley Conduit “A Path Forward” November 22, 2019 via Southeastern.

From The Mountain Mail (Cody Olivas):

The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation recently adopted a project management plan that will guide construction of the Arkansas Valley Conduit…

Terry Scanga, general manager of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District, said he didn’t see the AVC having much impact on Salidans and others in the area. “It’s not going to change river flows,” he said. “It’s not going to impact the allocation (of water) communities in the upper basin get.”

After thinking about it for a second he said some transit loss might have a “minimal impact” on irrigators, but added that the advantages of the project far outweigh those potential effects.

[Sam] Braverman said they’re not creating any new water diversions from Colorado’s Western Slope. The big change, he said, is that water will now be piped from Pueblo to surrounding municipalities instead of letting it flow to them in the river, which will improve drinking water quality…

Salinity, selenium and uranium found in the natural environment all pose water-quality challenges for the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado.

Several communities the conduit will serve currently can’t drink their tap water.

“There’s at least 5,000 people who literally have radioactive water coming out of their pipes,” Braverman said. “They can’t drink their water, and (the municipalities) can’t afford to filter it out.”

Braverman said another 11,000-12,000 people in the communities get their water from reverse osmosis, but the state doesn’t see those systems as permanent solutions because they put their effluent back into the river. He said drying the effluent, packing it and taking it to landfills would be too costly to be a realistic solution.

“There’s no way those communities could afford to do that,” he said. “The AVC is really the only answer for all of these communities; this a game changer for disadvantaged areas.”

The AVC will provide water for municipal and industrial use.

The project management plan describes how the project will be executed, monitored and controlled.

Under the plan, the Pueblo Board of Water Works will deliver AVC water to a point east of Pueblo. A contract among the Reclamation Bureau, Pueblo Water and Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District is in the discussion stage. From that point, the bureau will construct the trunk line, a treatment plant and water tanks, while Southeastern will coordinate with communities to fund and build connections.

Southeastern will serve as lead on the “spur and delivery lines” portion of the project and seek funding to design and construct this portion of the project, $100 million of which has already been secured from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, subject to legislative approval.

Braverman said they just started final design on the first 12 miles of the pipeline…

Braverman said communities the AVC will serve have been hearing about it for decades, but getting the $28 million recently was the first chunk of money they’ve secured to begin construction.

“That was a complete shift from where we were,” Braverman said. “Now it’s just a matter of the funding stream continuing.”

Arkansas River Basin via The Encyclopedia of Earth

#Snowpack news:

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map May 8, 2020 via the NRCS.

From The Denver Post (Chris Bianchi):

Over the last two weeks, Colorado has lost nearly half of its snowpack, an unusually rapid decline owing to a recent run of warm temperatures and a chilly start to April. After snow and record-breaking cold temperatures kept snowpack levels relatively steady through the first part of April (including multiple rounds of Front Range snowfall), the weather pattern changed quickly.

By the latter half of April, record highs were being set across wide swaths of Colorado.

Colorado snowpack basin-filled map April 17, 2020 via the NRCS.

On April 19th, almost all of Colorado’s snowpack was still intact, based on statewide averaged data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). That had statewide snowpack slightly above average, or at about the 60th percentile of the 30-year climatological average.

Now, less than three weeks later, about 40 percent of Colorado’s snowpack had already melted away. As of Thursday, NRCS data had statewide snowpack only at the 25th percentile of the 30-year average.

While spring is snowmelt season, there’s little question that the mountains have lost their snow especially quickly this spring.

“What is unusual about this (season) is it’s come out pretty quick here. We’ve lost a lot of snowpack,” said David Barjenbruch, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Boulder.

While the quick snowmelt will fill up reservoirs earlier than usual, it could also dry out ground more quickly…

Statewide Basin High/Low graph May 7, 2020 via the NRCS.

Statewide, Colorado finished with a slightly above average season in terms of snowpack. The snowpack, though, was generally higher in the northern half of the state. Last summer was quite dry across southern Colorado, where drought conditions are continuing to grow.

#Drought news: S. #Colorado continues to dry out

From CBS 4 Denver (Lauren Whitney):

Southern Colorado now has extreme drought creeping back in. Our extreme drought (red on the map) jumped from 0% to just over 11% in one week.

Colorado Drought Monitor May 5, 2020.

Just over 76% of the state has abnormally dry conditions, with just over 61% under moderate drought. There has also been an 8% jump in the severe drought areas to just over 40% of the state in these conditions.

West Drought Monitor May 5, 2020.

From The Denver Channel (Blair Miller):

Red flag warnings are in effect until Thursday evening across much of central and southern Colorado due to high winds, low relative humidity and drought conditions that have become more widespread across the state in the past year.

The red flag warnings are in effect for the Front Range from Boulder County south to New Mexico, for some of the southeastern plains, south-central mountains and Western Slope until 8 p.m.

Winds are expected to gust up to 30-50 miles per hour in most places that have warnings in effect, with relative hunidities in the teens or single digits.

Those conditions come as parts of Colorado are experiencing what the U.S. Drought Monitor classifies as “extreme drought” conditions for the first time in more than a year and as “severe drought” conditions expand to levels not seen in more than a year either…

There were 14 straight weeks of drought-free conditions in Colorado last year that ended in August.

The only parts of the state that are currently drought-free are the Denver metro area, central mountains, most of Weld County and other rural, northern Colorado counties.

About 70% of Colorado has seen abnormally dry conditions since the start of the water year on October 1, but at that time, there were no severe drought conditions in the state. On Jan. 1, 20% of the state was experiencing severe drought, but that fell to just 3% in early February before sharply rising to 41% over the next three months.