NEW YORK – Greek-American retired Detective Anthony “Tony Bees” Planakis, the NYPD’s former unofficial bee expert, was among the experts who spoke to the New York Post about the murder hornet, the Asian giant hornet, nicknamed the “murder hornet” which has been found in Washington State recently for the first time.
The hornets will eventually reach the East Coast, beekeepers told the Post. Among them, Planakis said, “I told the NYPD back in 2012… ‘Your problem is not the bees. This [the murder hornet] is your problem,’” the Post reported.
Planakis told the Post, “I showed them a picture of it, and they go, ‘What the hell is that?’ I go, ‘That is an Asian hornet. My [beekeeper’s] suit is useless against that thing.’”
When asked if the hornets are dangerous to people, Planakis told the Post, “Absolutely. Oh, my God. Have you seen the mandibles on these things?”
“The hornets, the world’s largest at more than 2 inches long, were first spotted in Washington in December, likely having made their way to the U.S. aboard a ship from China, experts said,” the Post reported, adding that “Planakis said he expects them to arrive in the East at least in the next two to three years” and “that in terms of eventual local infiltration, city green spaces in the outer boroughs are the most likely places.”
“All it takes is a few hornets, and you’ve got a colony,” Planakis told the Post.
“Spots such as the Bronx Botanical Garden are ideal because there’s plenty of open space and lots of food,” Planakis said, adding that “parks in general would be attractive to the giant hornets, although you won’t find them in very urban spots such as Manhattan because they tend to nest in the ground or burrow in rotted wood,” the Post reported.
Manhattan beekeeper Andrew Cote told the Post that it “could be years before they make a foothold [on the East Coast] — or they could end up in the back of somebody’s truck and be here in four days,” adding that the meat-eating hornet “is here to stay,” and
“we can expect them to be everywhere on the continent in time… It’s a done deal. There’s no way to contain it to the West Coast.”
Cote told the Post that “he saw the giant hornets on a trip to China in 2017, where ‘local beekeepers there used small bats that looked like miniature cricket bats’ to hit the hornets mid-air.”
“It sounded like someone hitting a rock. The hornets are extraordinarily aggressive. The prospect of my semi-defenseless bees having to confront them sends chills up my spine,” Cote told the Post.
The giant hornet “can decimate a honey bee colony because it needs to build up protein for its own colony, so it decapitates and consumes part of the honey bee,” Cote said, the Post reported.
Planakis said that “the hornet’s stinger ‘is approximately a quarter of an inch,’ compared to the one-sixteenth of an inch for a honey bee,” the Post reported.
The hornet is “a little bit bigger than a cicada, you’ll see the tip of the stinger, but it’s not until it actually extends the stinger out that it goes into your skin. And they’re meat-eaters… They’ll go after birds, small sparrows if they have to,” Planakis told the Post, adding that their venom “is a pheromone, which is like a magnet to other hornets, so you can get swarmed just from getting stung by one.”
Planakis continued, “The worst thing anyone can do with these things is kill them. That scent is going to be airborne, and the rest of the hive will come. Getting stung is extremely painful, and anyone who is allergic, heaven help them. And they don’t sting you one time. They have the ability to sting you multiple times. Honeybees can only sting you once, and then they die,” the Post reported.
The beekeeper pointed out that “you have to understand, out in the wild, unless you go up to their hive, they’re not going to sit there and just seek you out. There’s got to be a reason for them to come at you,” the Post reported.
Planakis also told the Post that “in China, they have hornet hunters.”
He explained, “There’s a tracker, and what they do is they set up a water source, and they wait there, like a deer hunter would. As soon as they see the hornet coming to the water source to drink, the guy jumps out with a net, and he grabs it. Then, ever so carefully, he ties a string on it and lets it go. There’s a spotter watching it now with binoculars, and he watches this thing as it flies, because obviously it’s going to fly back to the nest. When they find it, they mark where the nest is. And at night they come back and with a flame-thrower, pretty much go at it, just follow them back to their base camp, and when they least expect it, boom, go after them,” the Post reported.