Recent sightings of Asian giant hornets — dubbed “murder hornets” for their voracious and violent appetites — have scientists worried the invasive species could decimate vital bee populations across the United States if not properly contained.
Since initial reports in early December, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has notified residents of multiple counties to be on the lookout for the giant hornets, which “threaten honeybees and all the crops they pollinate.”
The pest, which has queens that can grow over two inches long, has devastating mandibles that can decapitate one bee every 14 seconds, according to a New York Times report. After removing the head of the bee, the giant hornet returns the thorax to its nest to feed its young.
Although not typically aggressive toward humans, the WSDA said, the hornet has a powerful sting that can pierce beekeeping suits. In Japan, hornets kill approximately 50 people a year, the Times reported.
It is not immediately clear how the hornet made it to the United States, but CNN reported they sometimes travel on international cargo, and it is believed they became active last month after initial sightings because their hibernation is coming to a close.
The first step to eradicate the hornet is to locate its colonies, the WSDA said, and it is currently enlisting the help of local beekeepers and the public to trap and report Asian giant hornets in Washington — even offering tips to trap the insect.
The clock to ensure the invasive pest does not gain a foothold in the country is ticking, the New York Times report showed. “This is our window to keep it from establishing,” said Chris Looney, an entomologist at the WSDA. “If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”
To report a sighting of an Asian giant hornet, contact your state’s department of agriculture.
©2020 Staten Island Advance, N.Y.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.