Across the globe, people are reporting sightings of the 2-inch killer dubbed the “Murder Hornet”, who have an appetite for the world’s honeybees.
Entomologists in Washington state have found evidence of the killer’s presence.
The giant Asian insect, that could be fatal to some people have found the killer emerging from their winter slumber.
“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, a bee breeder at Washington State University.
“It’s a shockingly large hornet,” said Todd Murray, a Washington State University Extension entomologist, and invasive species specialist. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honeybees.”
The hornet was sighted for the first time in the U.S. last December, when the state Department of Agriculture verified two reports near Blaine, Washington, close to the Canadian border. It also received two probable, but unconfirmed reports from sites in Custer, Washington, south of Blaine.
The hornet’s sting can even get through most beekeeper suits, it can deliver nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honeybee, and sting multiple times, the department said, adding that it ordered special reinforced suits from China.
The university said it isn’t known how or where the hornets arrived in North America. It normally lives in the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia and feeds on large insects, including wasps and bees. It was dubbed the “Murder Hornet” in Japan, where it is known to kill people.
The hornet’s life cycle begins in April, this is when the queens emerge from hibernation, feed on plant sap and fruit, and look for underground dens to build their nests.
The hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early fall.
Just like a marauding army, they attack honeybee hives, killing adult bees and devouring larvae and pupae, Washington State University said.
Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin.
Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic, the university said.
Farmers depend on honeybees to pollinate many important northwest crops such as apples, blueberries, and cherries.
With the threat from giant hornets, “beekeepers may be reluctant to bring their hives here,” Island County Extension scientist Tim Lawrence said.
An invasive species can change growing conditions, Murray said, adding that now is the time to deal with the predators.
“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,” Murray said.
The state Department of Agriculture will begin trapping queens this spring, with a focus on Whatcom, Skagit, San Juan, and Island counties.
Hunting the hornets is no job for ordinary people.
“Don’t try to take them out yourself if you see them,” Looney said. “If you come across them, run away, then call us!”