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Are hornets replacing shads as public enemy #1

'We examined the deceased insect. It was the size of a toonie and did not look at all like any hornet we have ever seen around here'
The European Hornet measured against a toonie.

There's been lots of talk locally about huge hornets that are being seen locally in increasing numbers.

Aurian Ouellette lives in North Bay and contacted us with his own hornet tale.

"At 7:45 Tuesday morning my wife Anna yelled downstairs 'Aurian you have to come up here right away! There is a huge hornet, absolutely huge.' Going up the stairs I mentioned there was a recent article on Murder Hornets. Probably the wrong thing to say."

See: European hornets mistaken for murder hornets in North Bay

And: European hornet in Ontario stokes fears of 'murder hornet'

"We examined the deceased insect. It was the size of a toonie and did not look at all like any hornet we have ever seen around here. It had long legs, the colour was different, very fuzzy, reddish face and the exoskeleton was so hard I could not get a pin through it."

Ouellette did a bit of research and discovered it was a European Hornet. It was introduced to the United States and Canada from Europe as early as 1840. "This species stings in response to being stepped on or grabbed, but generally avoids conflict," says Wikipedia. "It is also defensive of its nest and can be aggressive around food sources. Care should be taken when they are found in these circumstances, as they may sting without warning."

"Apparently not dangerous," says Ouellette so pictures were taken. "Of course, my son the social media teenager and selfie aficionado's pictures are the better ones."

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Tom Richardson operates Good Riddance Pest Control in North Bay.

He says they have been getting calls from North Bay residents about the same hornet. 

"We are unsure as to why, but yes European hornets are here," Richardson told BayToday

"Yes, I have seen lots of online pictures and chatter. We have had some calls, and brought back some examples. They were around at the end of last season as well."

Bob Bowles, an environmental expert in the Orillia area, told BayToday's sister site OrilliaMatters that the confusion between the species is becoming common.  

Bowles said distinguishing features between the two include dark brown sections along the European hornet’s head — whereas the northern giant hornet has a fully yellow head — and “keyhole” markings along the European hornet’s black and yellow thorax, which are absent on the northern giants.

No one across the province seems to have a reason for the sightings this year as experts say the European hornets are not an invasive species in Ontario and have actually been in the area for more than 150 years. 

With files from Chris Dawson and Greg McGrath-Goudie.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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