SPOKANE, Wash. - Matt Liere is a little attached to his honey bees.
"It's kind of a solitary thing, and it's almost kind of like raising children, only there's 60,000 of them," Liere said.
He started beekeeping eight years ago. He now leads the Inland Empire Beekeepers Association as President.
Liere is used to dealing with threats to his hives. He has a plan for pesticides and mites, but now, a new threat looms -- the Asian Giant Hornet.
"It's pretty scary and knowing that they've discovered them in Western Washington, British Columbia. They haven't had any sightings from over here yet, but the big thing about it is it's a new threat and we don't know. We know very little about it," Liere said.
The bugs are sometimes referred to as "Murder Hornets" because their venom can actually kill adults humans if they're stung enough times.
"If you start getting multiple stings or you're stung, say 10 times or more, we're told it can be fatal," Sven-Erik Spichiger said. Spichiger is the Managing Entomologist for the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA).
"There were quite a few incidents in southern China in 2013, that led to 42 fatalities, but even worse than that is because there's a necrosis associated with the sting and that just means the your flesh melts around the site of the sting. This can actually enter the bloodstream and cause some other issues like organ failure and eventually lead to death or paralysis," Spichiger said.
Aside from the damage they can do to humans, the Asian Giant Hornets can devastate honeybees. Entomologists believe they can kill a hive of thousands of honey bees in just a matter of hours.
"What they do is they lure them out of the hive and basically decapitate them and suffer no losses doing so. And then over the next few days or so they will go in and rob the brood and the pupae and take that back to feed to their young," Spichiger said.
The WSDA views the bugs as a "No Tolerance Pest" because of the devastation they can cause to honey bees.
Harm to local honey bees can cause issues for beekeeper hobbyists of course, but also to the commercial honey industry.
"Commercial guys guys rely on pollination and honey production, their industry, their, you know, their operations are huge anywhere from 50 to 1000 hives. So the folks that are going out and pollinating green bluff and doing the orchards or whatnot. There's a significant financial risk or the Asian Hornet coming in decimate their entire industry. I mean, that's that's their livelihood," Liere said.
Liere believes that most people don't realize how reliant we are on honey bees surviving.
"One third of the food sources rely on on honeybees and pollination. So we get Hornets and they're they're decimating that. I can't imagine what it would what the world's gonna look like after that," Liere said.
These hornets are showing up at a time where Liere said we just don't need another thing to deal with.
"We've already been through a lot with this coronavirus thing and business has shut down. You know, one third of the way say, one third of the food sources rely on on honeybees and pollination. So we get Hornets and they're they're decimating that. I can't imagine what it would what the world's gonna look like after that," Liere said.
Though there have yet to be any sightings of the Asian Giant Hornet east of the Cascades, if you do see one, don't approach it. Entomologists ask that you slowly back away and contact the WSDA.
The WSDA first learned that Asian Giant Hornets had come to the U.S. when an observant homeowner sent in a picture.
"It really does make a difference when people take a time to report something like this. Because from this one report, we've been able to really prepare an active and aggressive response to make sure that this thing has not established," Spichiger said.