Murder Hornets Are Back

Murder+Hornets+Are+Back

Ellie Bonnette, Editor-in-Chief

Do you remember hearing endless information about the infamous murder hornets on the news? How about the numerous memes all over social media? Well, on August 11th, the first Asian giant hornet, aka murder hornet sighting of 2021 occurred just two miles from where the very first U.S. sighting was back in 2019 near Blaine, Washington. A hornet was seen attacking a paper wasp nest, which is usual behavior for them.

These devious little insects are native to South and East Asia and are considered invasive, non-native species to the United States. They are about 4.5 mm longer than a honey bee, have an orange-yellow face with teardrop-shaped eyes, and have what looks to be a mini superhero cape. 

Murder hornets certainly live up to their name for they literally murder their victims. According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, “Asian giant hornets attack and destroy honey bee hives. A few hornets can destroy a hive in a matter of hours. The hornets enter a ‘slaughter phase’ where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, taking the brood to feed their own young. They also attack other insects but are not known to destroy entire populations of those insects.” Honey bees are completely vulnerable, and the venomous stinger of murder hornets are about a quarter-inch long, which is enough to puncture a beekeeping suit. Most of us know how vital honey bees are to the balance of our ecosystem, and not to mention, without them we would not have many delicious fruits. A single honey bee visits 5,000 flowers in one day and are one of our biggest pollinators. Bee populations have already been declining dramatically in recent years: “From 2018 to 2019, 40 percent of bees under keepers’ care in the US disappeared. Since pollinators like bees and butterflies are directly responsible for one-third of the food we eat, preserving pollinator biodiversity may be key to feeding the world’s growing population” (inverse.com). They are already endangered, and if the Asian giant hornets continue to massacre innocent bees, our ecosystem will simply fall apart. Not to worry too much, for these hornets don’t normally go after people or pets so long as they aren’t threatened. However, inverse.com states, “True to its moniker, this hornet’s potent, venomous sting can be deadly to humans – especially if a person gets stung multiple times. While they are not the only deadly hornet, these bugs pack a particular punch. Their sting contains a specific neurotoxin that can sometimes send people into anaphylactic shock.” In Japan, these hornets kill between 30 and 50 people per year.

We aren’t quite sure how the Asian giant hornet made its way to the United States, but it is a possibility that they hitched a ride in a shipping container, according to National Geographic. Last year, the Washington State Department of Agriculture was able to vacuum out the first nest, and the team is now planning to set traps and tag a live murder hornet. From there, the team hopes to track down other nests. 

Believe it or not, Japan actually considers this species to be beneficial to the environment. According to sciencealert.com, “In parts of Japan, people consider these hornets beneficial because they remove pests, such as harmful caterpillars, from crops. They are also thought to contain nutrients and have been used as ingredients in Japanese food and some strong liquors. Some people believe the hornets’ essence has medicinal benefits.” 

Here in Arizona, we thankfully don’t need to worry about facing a murder hornet, but if for some reason you happen to encounter one, take caution and be sure to report it to the State Department of Agriculture at (602) 542-4373.