For the first time, Asian giant hornets have been spotted in the United States.
At more than five centimetres long, they are the world’s largest hornets with a sting that can kill humans if stung multiple times, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) said, nicknaming them “murder hornets.”
“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” WSU bee breeder Susan Cobey said.
Beekeepers have reported piles of dead bees with their heads ripped off across the state, however scientists don’t know how these giant hornets, which are native to Asia, ended up in the US.
Seth Truscott from WSU said they’re sometimes transported in international cargo – in some cases deliberately.
The giant hornet was first spotted in the state in December, and scientists believe they started becoming active again last month, when the queens emerge from hibernation to build nests and form colonies.
“Hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early fall, when they are on the hunt for sources of protein to raise next year’s queens,” Mr Truscott said.
“They attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae, while aggressively defending the occupied colony,” he added.
“Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic.”
What should you do if you spot one?
Washington state agricultural officials are asking beekeepers and residents to report any sightings of the giant hornets, however they are warning people not to get too close.
The sting can penetrate a regular beekeeper’s suit, and scientists had to order special reinforced suits as protection.
“Don’t try to take them out yourself if you see them,” entomologist Chris Looney said.
“If you get into them, run away, then call us! It is really important for us to know of every sighting, if we’re going to have any hope of eradication.”
State officials are asking people in Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Jefferson and Clallam counties to be especially vigilant.
When are they most destructive?
The giant hornets especially target bees between late summer and fall.
“The most likely time to catch Asian giant hornets is from July through October — when colonies are established and workers are out foraging,” Washington State Department of Agriculture said in a statement.
“Traps can be hung as early as April if attempting to trap queens, but since there are significantly fewer queens than workers, catching a queen isn’t very likely.”
State officials set up traps and launched an app to quickly report sightings, saying just a few of the hornets can devastate a hive within hours.
Bees pollinate plants producing fruit, nuts and vegetables, and are crucial to the nation’s food industry. Attack by the hornets risks decimating bees, which are already on endangered lists due to their sharply declining numbers.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.