Also Called the ‘Murder Hornet,’ the Asian Giant Hornet is a Threat to Bees & Humans
The start of 2020 has been one for the books.
And, just when we thought things couldn’t get worse, there’s a new invasive pest taking the internet by storm thanks to its debut in the United States.
The nickname “murder hornet” surely helped increase the popularity of the large hornet of Asian descent, which became an internet sensation as warmer weather set onto America in 2020 after it was first seen in Washington in late 2019.
Now, the appearance of the Asian giant hornet has grown into a genuine fear for Americans.
The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the world’s largest species of hornet.
When the ‘Murder Hornet’ Showed Up in the United States
Even though confirmed sightings of the pest have only come from one state thus far, it has prompted fears that the Asian giant hornet could establish itself in the United States and pose danger to bee colonies throughout the nation.
Scientists have begun searching for the invader in hopes of preventing the insect from establishing itself in our country.
Becoming established could be devastating to the bee populations and detrimental to our health.
If the presence is not eliminated, eradicating the murder hornet would be difficult, or impossible.
“This is our window to keep it from establishing,” Chris Looney, an entomologist at the Washington State Department of Agriculture told the New York Times. “If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”
The National Association of State Agriculture has urged Americans to notify the agency if an Asian giant hornet was spotted in their area.
What We Know About the Asian Giant Hornet So Far
The stinging pest is native to the forests and mountainous areas of eastern and southeast Asia.
Scientists aren’t certain how this species found its way to America, but, in the past, pests have been transported by international cargo.
The Asian giant hornet lifecycle typically begins in April as the queen emerges from hibernation. Feeding on plant sap and fruit, the pest searches for an underground den to build its nest.
After the colony grows and becomes established, worker hornets leave the colony in search of food and prey.
Even though it feeds on plant sap and fruit after hibernation, this species of hornet prefers to make a meal out of honey bees.
Attacking honey bee hives, killing adult bees, the pest brings bee thoraxes back to the colony to feed the queen and the young.
Using their spiked, shark fin-shaped mandible appendages, Asian giant hornets can decapitate and wipeout a hive in a matter of hours.
Thus, giving them the “murder hornet” nickname.
How Asian Giant Hornets Could Be Harmful to Humans & Other Animals
Protecting the population of honey bees is a grave concern.
Pollination is one of the most important factors that contributes to biodiversity. One of the most important things a honey bee can do is pollinate.
Nectar and pollen sticks to the tiny hairs on the bee’s body and then rubs off on the next flower or plant. This process encourages development in fruits, vegetables, and other plants.
So honey bees not only help to provide us with honey, but crops like apples, lima beans, tomatoes, brussels sprouts and many others depend on pollination.
Not only are flowering plants dependent on pollination, bees and forest beekeeping help to sustain forest ecosystems. This process is done through the regeneration of trees, which then helps to conserve forest biodiversity.
There are other honey bee predators that are cause for concern including wasps, bears, and humans. Yet, the murder hornet has quickly made its way to the top of the list.
But, that’s not our only concern.
Larger targets, like humans, also have to worry about the invasive pest.
The Asian giant hornet’s stinger is long enough — and strong enough — to puncture a beekeeping suit. Combined with the venom, being stung by one of these hornets can feel like one of the most excruciating sensations a person could experience.
Some have compared it to hot metal puncturing their skin.
The venom also contains a pheromone, which acts like a magnet for other hornets. So, a person could be swarmed by numerous hornets in only a short matter of time.
To make matters worse, the hornet can sting multiple times. This is quite scary, but especially for those with allergies to bee, wasp, and hornet stings. The outcome of multiple stings could likely be fatal.
The Asian giant hornet has been known to kill approximately 50 people each year in Japan.
How to Identify an Asian Giant Hornet
Unlike other hornets, the Asian giant hornet is quite large — much like the name would suggest.
The hornet can grow up to two inches long. That’s double the size of a yellow jacket!
The pest has a large head that is a yellow-orange color and large, prominent eyes. Their abdomens are black and yellow striped.
Colonies are typically formed as nests in the ground, especially in wooded areas. Take extra care while going for walks on nature trails or hikes.
Typical bee equipment will not be enough to protect you from stings. Do not attempt to remove or eradicate a colony.
Asian giant hornets can be similar in size (and nickname) to the cicada killer wasp, which can grow up to approximately two inches. But the pest is black with yellow stripes on their abdomen. They also have black and red colorations on their back.
Also referred to as cicada killers and cicada hawks, the wasp captures and paralyzes cicadas — the insect that sometimes feeds on plants and crops.
However, cicada killer wasps are not as aggressive as the Asian giant hornet and typically won’t sting unless provoked.
What to do if You See an Asian Giant Hornet
If you spot a hornet nest on your property, you are urged to contact the wildlife and pest control professionals at Catseye Pest Control.
Allowing experts to handle pest removal is essential in the eradication of an invasive species.