'Murder hornet' invasion in USA sows dread over threat to bees, humans

The giant Asian hornet

The giant Asian hornet

"It's a shockingly large hornet", says Todd Murray, an entomologist and invasive species specialist at Washington State University (WSU), in an article in a campus publication.

Researchers nicknamed the bugs "Murder hornets" because several of their stings at once can kill a human, and stingers are strong enough to puncture a beekeeper's suit.

Those who are stung multiple times (10 or more) are more susceptible to developing a toxic or allergic reaction, including lightheadedness or dizziness, and must immediately seek medical attention.

The hornet can also sting through regular beekeeper suits a bee breeder would wear, and their incredibly painful attack delivers roughly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee sting. Scientists don't know how they traveled across the Pacific from their original habitat.

A honeybee pollinating a flower
A honeybee pollinating a flower

WSU says the hornet was first spotted in December and will start to become more active in April-they're "most destructive" during the late summer and early fall.

"This time of year we receive a number of reports of "large bees" that typically end up being either cicada killers or European hornets", Marty Benson, Assistant Director for the Indiana DNR said in an email to RTV6.

In addition to the sightings in northwest Washington, Asian giant hornets have been found across the border in southwest British Columbia, including a colony that was eradicated on Vancouver Island last September.

Their main target, however, is the hives of honeybees, which they attack and often will destroy, largely by decapitating the bees in the hive, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA).

Murder hornets "decapitate" bees, UT expert says not to panic
Asian giant hornets can use shark-fin shaped appendages to destroy a beehive, decapitating its victims in a matter of minutes. The hornets made their first North American appearance in August 2019, in British Columbia , Canada.

This is the first time they were found in Blaine, the U.S., in December. Since farmers rely on bees to pollinate huge numbers of crops, and given that bee populations are already under threat, there may be serious biological and economic consequences if bees have to face yet another predator.

Despite its deadly venom and sizable stinger, you still shouldn't fear Asian giant hornets, especially if you live in the U.S. Not only is the WSDA actively trying to eradicate the known populations of the hornets, but the odds of being stung by one are teensy tiny.

European Hornets arrived in the United States in the 1980s and can be found throughout the eastern United States.

Intentional or not, when an invasive species enters a new ecosystem it creates lasting effects and changes to its environment.

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"What we are told from the literature is that most people can survive one or two stings", he said.

The Asian giant hornet along with common lookalikes.

Vicious Giant Hornets With Venomous Sting Spotted For First Time In US
The WSDA says that it will be necessary to track the hornets to their nests so that the nests and queen can be destroyed. Next is the slaughter phase, when dozens of hornets attack the hive and massacre tens of thousands of bees.

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