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Expert Downplays Fears Of ‘Murder Hornets’ After They’re Spotted In United States

by : Cameron Frew on : 03 May 2020 12:46
Expert Downplays Fears Of 'Murder Hornets' After They're Spotted In United StatesExpert Downplays Fears Of 'Murder Hornets' After They're Spotted In United StatesThomas Brown/Justin Lindsay/Flickr

Asian ‘murder hornets’ have arrived in the US. Despite their name, an expert says they’re ‘probably not going to kill anyone, don’t panic’. 

More than two inches long with an orange-yellow head and armed with a potent venom, there’s no doubt these buzzing villains are scary. However, Asian giant hornets aren’t out to kill us – they’re more interested in wiping out the honeybee population, who are defenceless to their spiky mandibles.

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Since November 2019, there have been multiple sightings of the species across the US and Canada, prompting alarm among researchers. It may be the world’s largest hornet, and yes, it can kill you in some circumstances, but let’s digest the facts of the matter before freaking out.

Asian Giant HornetsAsian Giant HornetsWikimedia

In Japan, ‘murder hornets’ kill up to 50 people per year. However, this is mostly due to the neurotoxin in their venom, which can induce symptoms of a potentially deadly allergic reaction, such as anaphalactic shock. Other complications as a result of a sting, such as respiratory and kidney failure, are exceedingly rare.

Following two confirmed sightings of the predator, and recurring reports of swathes of decapitated bees, Washington state’s Department of Agriculture has been on ‘a full-scale hunt’ to combat bees becoming even more endangered.

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Asian Giant HornetAsian Giant Hornett-mizo/Flickr

Chris Looney, an entomologist from the department, told The New York Times: ‘This is our window to keep it from establishing, if we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.’

However, Looney also noted to USA Today they’re ‘probably not going to murder someone… don’t panic’. If faced with a giant hornet or, god forbid, a hive, there’s very specific advice you should follow.

Asian Giant HornetAsian Giant HornetJustin Lindsay/Flickr
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Looney explained to CNN

Don’t try to take them out yourself if you see them. 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.

Conrad Bérubé, a beekeeper and entomologist, had been assigned to track down and exterminate a hive on Vancouver Island last year. Dressed in shorts, thick sweatpants and a bee suit, his protective clothing was no match for the might of the hornets, who attacked him as he approached.

He ended up with seven stings, some of which drew blood, and described the ambush as ‘having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh’.

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Asian Giant HornetAsian Giant HornetCameron Frew

Todd Murray, a Washington State University Extension entomologist and specialist of invasive species, said in a statement: ‘We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance.’

The most likely time for officials to catch the hornets will be between July and October, as the vicious species moves onto the ‘slaughter phase’ – with established colonies, they progress onto hunting bee hives.

However, to reiterate, human fatalities from these hornets are few and far between.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Bees, Insects, US, washington

Credits

USA Today and 3 others
  1. USA Today

    What are 'Murder Hornets' and should I be worried? Asian giant hornets spotted in the US

  2. CNN

    Invasive giant hornets have been spotted in the US for the first time

  3. The New York Times

    ‘Murder Hornets’ in the U.S.: The Rush to Stop the Asian Giant Hornet

  4. Washington State University

    WSU scientists enlist citizens in hunt for giant, bee-killing hornet