Yes, the “murder hornets” recently spotted in Washington state live up to their names.
Asian giant hornets, or, more scientifically, Vespa mandarinia — but also known as “murder hornets” — can kill.
In a cellphone video posted on YouTube in 2018 and making the rounds again, a giant hornet is seen attacking a mouse and pumping the little guy (let’s call him Mickey) full of venom. At the end, Mickey appears paralyzed and gasping for breath. Then Mickey tries to stand but quickly falls again and lays motionless.
The two-inch-long hornet disengages, flies off, then flies back, hovers over his victim, and flies off again — probably looking for more mice to sting.
While the giant hornets are not as deadly as some other insects, they do not lose their stingers like some bees and are able to continuously pump venom into a victim. In a 2006 paper on the insects, a team of Japanese doctors said the hornets are deadly to humans.
“In Japan, fatalities due to Vespa mandarinia (wasp) stings are estimated to range from 30 to 50 persons each year. Most victims appear to die from anaphylaxis or sudden cardiac arrest,” the doctors wrote, “while some of them die from to multiple organ failure including rhabdomyolysis, renal failure, liver dysfunction, respiratory failure, and disseminated intravascular coagulopathy.”
Those who died were stung an average of 59 times, while those who survived suffered around 28 stings, the doctors found.
You think that’s all? Not by a long shot.
The invasive species, which was first spotted in Washington state in December (shortly before another Asian import — SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 — arrived) mostly attacks honey bees, which pollinate some fruits and vegetables, as well flowers.
How do they kill them? By decapitation.
“These hornets will actually come into colonies, and they will decapitate the bees at the hive. They can decimate an entire colony.” Honey bees and other native bees are important to the agriculture industry and “food sustainability,” University of Tennessee entomologist Jennifer Tsurda told WVLT News.
Once they attack a hive and kill the bees, the giant hornets take over the nest and and guard it aggressively.
The hornet’s stinger can even penetrate a beekeepers suit.
Wait. There’s more.
“The biggest problem with them is that they fly fast,” Dr. Marc Siegel said on Fox News on Monday. “The queen hornet can fly up to 20 miles an hour. Imagine trying to catch it. So it’s only a matter of time before it takes root in the United States and then you got to be on the lookout for it.”
“I don’t want to scare anyone — it’s only starting to take root here — but we’ve got to nip it in the bud before it becomes an even bigger problem and destroys our bees,” Siegel concluded. “Our bees pollinate flowers, plants. We need our bees,” Siegel said.
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