'Murder hornets' in Washington state threaten bees and whip up media swarm

Monday, 04 May, 2020

They also removed all of the hornets and the nest's queen.

The monster insect, nicknamed by researchers as the "murder hornet", has been found in the country for the first time and are responsible for killing up to 50 people a year in Japan.

Washington state verified four reports of Asian giant hornets in two north-western cities in December. But it is most unsafe for the European honeybee, which is defenseless in the face of the hornet's spiky mandibles, long stinger and potent venom.

Now, deadly hornets from Asia that measure up to 2 inches long have been found for the first time in the United States - and researchers are anxious they're colonizing.

"The hornets enter a "slaughter phase" where they kill bees by decapitating them".

How they arrived in North America remains unclear.

"It's a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honeybees", he added.

They can grow to two-inches long and have giant mandibles, shaped like shark fins, that allow them to decimate bee hives in hours.

One researcher in Canada, where the hornets have also infiltrated, said the hornets penetrated both his beekeeping suit and layers of sweatpants underneath.

Bees support about $20 billion worth of United States agriculture each year, but are facing population declines around the world. While only a handful have been spotted in the Pacific Northwest, beekeepers and entomologists are working hard to track and destroy hornet hives.

"At this time, Washington State Department of Agricultural has implemented an aggressive outreach and trapping campaign", Rian Wojahn, the eradication coordinator for the WSDA, told TIME in an email.

But Asian giant hornets have been in British Columbia for some time, with the first hornets spotted near Nanaimo in August 2019. Some people are more allergic to insect stings than others, which can cause a fatal anaphylactic reaction that closes airways or triggers cardiac arrest.

At this point, the murder hornets have been spotted across both the USA and Canada with little information available regarding where they're specifically inhabiting.

In a less likely scenario, Looney said, someone might have transported the hornets here to cultivate them as a food source.

So, uh, yeah, if you see one of these hornets in person, run away and call a local department of agriculture.