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Scientists Have Lost Two Giant ‘Murder Hornets’ After Trackers Come Loose

by : Cameron Frew on : 16 Oct 2020 17:23
Scientists Have Lost Two Giant 'Murder Hornets' After Trackers Come LooseScientists Have Lost Two Giant 'Murder Hornets' After Trackers Come LooseKarla Salp/Justin Lindsay/Flickr

After issues with their trackers, Washington scientists have lost track of two giant ‘murder hornets’. 

Asian giant hornets, often dubbed ‘murder hornets’ due to their blown-out reputation, began falling onto people’s radars in November last year. Earlier in May, it was confirmed the species had arrived in the US, with a total of 18 having been spotted.

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They are rather frightening, with the queens measuring out at five centimetres long. They have an orange-yellow head, a dark thorax and spiky mandibles, also armed with a potent venom. However, there’s no need for any hysteria – they aren’t buzzing to kill you.

Asian Giant HornetAsian Giant Hornett-mizo/Flickr

Two hornets were among a number of the predators captured by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), in a bid to keep the species from establishing a new habitat in the US. ‘This is our window… if we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done,’ entomologist Chris Looney earlier told The New York Times.

However, while attempting to track a hornet back to its nest with a glued-on tracker, the GPS device came loose. On a second attempt, using dental floss to hold the tracker onto the hornet, scientists lost the signal after it flew into bushes.

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Sven Spichiger, WSDA’s managing entomologist, told The Independent: ‘We did get an initial direction of the flight. [But] this one was a lot feistier.’

Asian Giant HornetAsian Giant HornetWikimedia

In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people a year. However, the deaths are mostly attributed to anaphylactic shock as a result of the neurotoxin in their venom. Other complications as a result of a sting, such as respiratory and kidney failure, are exceedingly rare.

Looney earlier said they’re ‘probably not going to murder someone… don’t panic’, issuing the following advice: ‘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.’

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Humans aren’t the main concern with murder hornets. Rather, it’s nation’s honeybee population under threat, with hornets due to move onto the ‘slaughter phase’ – when established colonies proceed to hunt down beehives and massacre them, tearing their heads from their bodies.

Not to say it wouldn’t hurt if you got stung. Brave Wilderness YouTuber Coyote Peterson put their pain to the test back in 2018, with excruciating results. However, to reiterate, they’re not flying around looking for human pain.

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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, US, washington

Credits

The Independent and 1 other
  1. The Independent

    Murder hornet escapes after being captured by scientists

  2. The New York Times

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