Drinking my first cup of coffee of the day outside is a pleasure that I cherish. I try to do it even when the weather is cold. In the summer and transition months, there are always the sound of birds and the sighting of squirrels and chipmunks all over my yard. With the human slowdown of Covid-19, these experiences are even more abundant.
Two days ago, when I stepped out with my coffee, I noticed some activity near my chair. A large hornet was struggling among the fallen leaves. As I looked closer, I noticed it was unusually large and it had yellow, black, and orange bands on its torso. Could this be one of the Asian Murder Hornets that have been in the news?
I did not take any chances. I stepped on it. I am usually respectful of all life and will even escort crickets and spiders out of my house. I never use insecticides, pesticides, or herbicides.
I looked at the carcass and could not tell much. The Asian Murder Hornet is not native to the US. It is an aggressive species that target the honeybee. It decapitates its victims and takes their torsos to feed its young. It can destroy a complete hive in hours.
Honeybees are essential for agriculture as they are the main pollinators of our crops. Their absence can reduce yields considerably. This could lead to famine and at least a rise in the cost of essential produce.
Invasive species are usually caused by the change in the climate. When the climate becomes more benign, they can move in and prosper. Possible acclimation of the Asian Murder Hornet could be one such case. We have seen such a change in temperate zones in the US. Invasive species change the ecological balance and cause changes in flora and fauna.
As for the carcass of the hornet, it was interesting to see what happened. Minutes after, I saw two small ants, no more than one millimeter in size, approach it. In less than five minutes there were close to one hundred around the carcass. They moved it to a crack between the bricks in my yard to be able to access it from all angles. The original location was rendered clean by a couple of the ants that remained there. By the end of the day, there was no sign of the dead hornet. A balanced ecosystem at work.
I had seen similar activities several months earlier when a dead slug’s body disappeared quickly due to ants and other insects reclaiming it.
This simple sliver of reality shows two quite different phenomena: Invasive species resulting from climate change and the efficient recycling of matter in a good ecosystem. If I had used pesticides or herbicides, the latter could not have occurred.
Curious about the hornet, I researched it on the Internet. I found that most likely it was not an Asian Murder Hornet, but a European Hornet, another invasive species. The Asian variety may have already reached the Pacific Northwest of the US but is not expected to reach the East Coast area for several years.
The signs of Climate Change resulting mostly from our excessive use of fossil fuels are all around us. We should heed notice. Could we also become a recycled species in the future?
To be published in The Ohio’s Professional News in November 2020.