A new invasive species of giant hornets from Asia has been discovered in the Washington state area, and scientists are now rushing to locate the destructive insects to exterminate them before they spread throughout the United States and become impossible to eradicate.
The hornet, called the Asian Giant Hornet, has been on the radar of officials since late December when they were first discovered in Blaine, near the Canadian border.
“With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young,” The New York Times reported. “For larger targets, the hornet’s potent venom and stinger — long enough to puncture a beekeeping suit — make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin.”
“Scientists have since embarked on a full-scale hunt for the hornets, worried that the invaders could decimate bee populations in the United States and establish such a deep presence that all hope for eradication could be lost,” the Times added. “Jun-ichi Takahashi, a researcher at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan, said the species had earned the ‘murder hornet’ nickname there because its aggressive group attacks can expose victims to doses of toxic venom equivalent to that of a venomous snake; a series of stings can be fatal.”
One of the most disturbing parts of the Times’ report on the Asian Giant Hornet was the revelation that at least two nests had been discovered across the border in Canada, and the nests were not related, “meaning there had probably been at least two different introductions in the region.”
While it’s not exactly clear how this invasive species made it from Asia to the United States, Looney did have some thoughts as to how they got here.
Looney said that it’s possible that someone deliberately brought them here because “in a lot of Asian countries, these big meaty wasps are food, and so it’s entirely possible that somebody brought these to try and cultivate a food source in North America.”
Looney also added that it was also possible that the Asian Giant Hornet was brought here on container ships carrying food and other goods.
Scientists in the area are trying to map out all the areas where the Asian Giant Hornets are located by using specially built traps to encase them and then tag them so that the flying insects will lead them back to their nests.
The venom that the Asian Giant Hornet carries is reportedly more potent than the venom that normal honey bees have, and the sting is much more painful.
“The giant hornets are attracted to human sweat, alcohol and sweet flavors and smells,” CNN reported. “They are especially sensitive to when animals or people run.”
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