It’s not a matter of if but when the “murder hornet’’ will hit the East Coast, experts warned The Post on Sunday.
The deadly meat-eating Asian giant hornet, which has been known to kill up to 50 people a year in Japan, recently surfaced for the first time in the US in Washington state — and New York City beekeepers say there is no way it won’t make its way here, too.
“I told the NYPD back in 2012 … ‘Your problem is not the bees. This [the murder hornet] is your problem,’ ” recalled retired Police Department beekeeper Anthony “Tony Bees” Planakis.
“I showed them a picture of it, and they go, ‘What the hell is that?’ ” Planakis said. “I go, ‘That is an Asian hornet. My suit is useless against that thing.’ ”
Asked if the monstrous insects are dangerous to humans, Planakis added, “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 US aboard a ship from China, experts said.
Planakis said he expects them to arrive East at least in the next two to three years.
He said 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 said.
Spots such as the Bronx Botanical Gardens are ideal because there’s plenty of open space and lots of food, he said. 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, he said.
Manhattan beekeeper Andrew Cote said 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.”
Either way, the carnivorous insect “is here to stay” in the US, he said.
“We can expect them to be everywhere on the continent in time. … It’s a done deal,” Cote said. “There’s no way to contain it to the West Coast.”
He said 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,” Cote said.
“The prospect of my semi-defenseless bees having to confront them sends chills up my spine.”
The killer 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.
Planakis said the hornet’s stinger “is approximately a quarter of an inch,” compared to the one-sixteenth of an inch for a honey bee.
“It’s a little bit bigger than a cicada,” he said of the hornet. “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 said that inside their venom “is a pheromone, which is like a magnet to other hornets.”
“So you can get swarmed just from getting stung by one.”
“The worst thing anyone can do with these things is kill them,” he said. “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,” he added. “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.”
Still, “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,” the beekeeper said. “There’s got to be a reason for them to come at you.”
Cote said bees can fight back by swarming a hornet if it gets in their hive and suffocating it.
Meanwhile, beekeepers can make the entrance to their beehives smaller to limit the number of hornets getting in at a time, or place “a roach motel for hornets’’ outside of hives that consists of a cage with meat in it to attract, and then trap, the carnivorous insects, said Cote, author of the upcoming book “Honey and Venom: Confessions of an Urban Beekeeper.”
Planakis said that in China, they have hornet hunters.
“There’s a tracker, and what they do is they set up a water source, and they wait there, like a deer hunter would,” he said.
“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 strong 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.”