For the first time in recorded history, Asian giant hornets have been spotted in the United States, causing panic among many Americans who suspect they could be the next victim.
At more than five centimetres long, these hornets are the world’s largest, with a sting that can kill humans if stung multiple times, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) said, nicknaming them “murder hornets”.
If their new moniker isn’t enough to inspire fear, media reports fanning the flames of public terror towards these “murder hornets” have caused what many experts consider to be “needless damage” to essential bee populations.
“Millions and millions of innocent native insects are going to die as a result of this,” Dr Doug Yanega, a professor of entomology at the University of California, Riverside, told the Los Angeles Times.
“Folks in China, Korea and Japan have lived side by side with these hornets for hundreds of years, and it has not caused the collapse of human society there. My colleagues in Japan, China and Korea are just rolling their eyes in disbelief at what kind of snowflakes we are.”
After the Asian hornets were first spotted in early May, the Washington State Department of Agriculture issued instructions on how to trap the hornets, advising people not to swipe at or kill anything that may be buzzing in their vicinity.
The hornets have so far only been spotted within Washington.
“I don’t want to downplay this — they are logistically dangerous insects. But, having people in Tennessee worry about this is just ridiculous,” Dr Yanega added.
“The only people who should be bothering experts with concerns about wasp IDs are living in the north-west quadrant of Washington. And really, right now, nobody else in the country should even be thinking about this stuff.”
Concern for the American bee population stems from their essential role in the pollination of up to 75 per cent of the nation’s fruit, nut and vegetable resources. And the insects have been in a sharp decline for over a decade in a ecological concern shared by Australia’s environmentalists.
Honeybees are well known for pollinating a wide number of trees and plants, while native bees are better and more efficient pollinators of native crops, and are estimated to pollinate 80 per cent of flowering plants around the world.
Scientists know that bees are dying from a variety of factors, with pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, air pollution, and global warming being the most significant impacts.
But humans are largely responsible for the two most prominent causes: pesticides and habitat loss.
And as more and more Americans continue to kill harmless honeybees, the sharper the decline in native species will be, damaging the US$15 billion in increased crop value that they provide the nation each year, according to the United States Geological Survey.
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