Our Encounter with Murder Hornets on Vancouver Island

Let me begin this story by clarifying that we will never have any way of knowing definitively whether or not it was the infamous murder hornet that turned my mother’s ankle into a pumpkin. Knowing that Canada’s Vancouver Island is the first known place where they have been found in North America, and based on what we saw, I can say with reasonable certainty that we encountered these dastardly things and paid the price!

In the summer of 2019, my mom and I took a road trip to beautiful Vancouver Island in Canada to explore and photograph this PNW treasure. While hiking to a small waterfall in Strathcona National Park, my mom suddenly yelped…

We encountered the notorious murder hornets on a short hike to Karst Creek Falls.
We encountered the notorious murder hornets on a short hike to Karst Creek Falls.

I spun around to see her batting at her leg and hobbling around. She had been stung by a bee, she thought, but didn’t recognize what kind. It was mostly black, with a dark orange head and stripes, and definitely on the large size. The confusing part was that she had been stung through her pants!

My mom limped back to the car but was not able to drive. I took over and we continued on with our day.

Hours after being stung, her entire leg continued to swell to what would have been a comical size under other circumstances. She had changed pants at this point to something that didn’t cover her ankles, and I looked down to notice her entire lower leg was swollen with a golf ball-sized blister boiling up.

Murder hornet sting begins to blister, eventually becoming the size of an egg!
Murder hornet sting begins to blister, eventually becoming the size of an egg!

This photo was taken just a few hours after she was stung. By the next day, it had doubled in size and would only go down with constant icing and plenty of Benadryl.

To this day, she bares a large scar on her ankle from the massive blister that ensued. We have continued to wonder what the hell it was that stung her ever since. With all the news of the murder hornets being discovered in the Pacific Northwest, we are now fairly certain the mystery has been solved.

Of course, this presents a much bigger problem as these vicious hornets are a destructive and invasive species.

Murder hornet sting sustained on Vancouver Island begins to blister.
This would eventually grow to be twice as large!

Murder Hornet Key Facts

Asian Giant Hornet aka "Murder Hornet"

What is a Murder Hornet?

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), known more commonly as the “murder hornet” is the world’s largest wasp species. They have orange and black markings, as well as a long stinger. The females can grow to nearly 2 inches in length.

Where Do Murder Hornets Come From?

These invasive wasps are native to East Asia and Japan.

Why are Murder Hornets a Problem?

In addition to the potent sting they are equipped with, they are also capable of swift and significant environmental impact.

They are infamous for killing colonies of honey bees, and are capable of destroying an entire beehive in a matter of hours. This poses major concern for honey bee populations that are already in massive decline. Furthermore, this could cause repercussions on a wider scale as honey bees are important pollinators and an integral part of the ecosystem.

While bees are their favourite food source, they feed on a variety of insects, the predation of which will all cause knock on effects to the delicate balance of the ecosystem.

How Did Murder Hornets Get to America?

While researchers are uncertain as to how these giant wasps made it to North America, it is thought they most likely arrived on shipping containers from Asia.

Where Have Murder Hornets Been Found in North America?

There have been two confirmed sightings of murder hornets in Washington. They were also spotted in British Columbia, Canada in fall 2019. In September 2019 a nest of murder hornets was discovered and subsequently destroyed in Vancouver Island.

What Should I Do If I See a Murder Hornet?

Their stings are much more potent and powerful than those of native wasps and bees, containing nearly seven times the amount of venom of honey bees. Do not approach a nest but rather inform your state’s Department of Agriculture which can be found here for US readers and here for Canadian readers.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture also has great information and pictures to help check if it is an Asian giant hornet you’ve seen. You can access that here. After looking at all the other wasp species, I am even more confident that what we encountered was a murder hornet.

Body of an Asian giant hornet aka "murder hornet", an invasive wasp species recently discovered in Canada and Washington

Final Thoughts on Our Encounter With Murder Hornets in Canada

I am sharing this story hoping that through the power of social media, it will come across the right set of eyes and might prove helpful in finding and eradicating the murder hornets from Vancouver Island and the rest of North America.

If anyone involved with the organization responsible for finding and eliminating the murder hornet population in Canada sees this, please feel free to contact me for more information!

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Written by
Adam Marland is a professional travel blogger and landscape photographer from Oregon. After over a decade of experience as a freelance travel photographer, Adam found national acclaim when he became the National Park Foundation's “Chief Exploration Officer” in 2021.

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