Asian “Murder hornet” arrived in Canada, U.S., sparking fear and concerns

Amid a pandemic causing millions in North America and Europe to stay inside for their health and safety, a new threat has emerged in the form of a hornet. 

Photo: Washington State Department of Agriculture

The Asian giant hornet, nicknamed the “murder hornet”, has surfaced as a reason to worry about going outside as Wildlife officials have reported that an increase of these hornets has been occurring in the U.S. and Canada.

These hornets are officially known as the largest and meanest of its species, with a massive stinger full of toxins, an armoured body, along with a size equal to AA batteries. Its nickname comes from the way the giant insect can slaughter entire colonies of honeybees.

They typically will not attack human beings unless its nest is threatened or provoked, but the sting of these murder hornets can be deadly to humans. In Japan, a total of 50 people a year are killed by these insects.

The hornet is typically found in countries like China and Japan, but British Columbia and the state of Washington has seen its emergence since last year.

Now out of hibernation, the giant hornet queens are said to be on the lookout for food.

This poses a problem for the honeybee population as they are at risk if this species is near them.

A threat to the honeybees

According to Wildlife data, a handful of hornets can kill tens of thousands of honeybees residing in their hive, and will ultimately take the younger bees to the hornets’ nest for food.

Much of the fear and hysteria regarding these killer hornets came from a New York Times article regarding said insect when a Japanese research dubbed them as “murder hornets”.

With videos and pictures surfacing on social media of the murder hornets showing up in cities like Vancouver, people are beginning to worry if this will become a threat to everyone’s health in the future.

In response to these hornets, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) says that the presence of these hornets will prove to be more dangerous to the European Honeybee population in North America.

The European Honeybees are already at risk in North America due to the pesticides killing much of the population, along with colony collapse disorder. With the destructive nature of the hornets posing as a threat to an already diminishing honeybee population, something must be done to prevent the honeybee numbers from lowering more.

WSDA entomologist Chris Looney says that “this is our window to keep it from establishing” when it comes to preventing the destruction of the honeybee population.

“If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done”.

Threat to humans

These giant hornets are easy to spot as an indicator would be their massive size in comparison to regular bees and wasps.

Their stingers are also very long, measuring to about six millimetres. In addition to that size, they are capable of using that stinger multiple times.

Their stingers are powerful enough to pierce human clothing, according to beekeeper Conrad Bérubé, who has been stung by these hornets multiple times when wiping out a colony of them on Vancouver Island last year.

“It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,” Bérubé said when describing how the stings felt.

Bérubé said that later on, he felt intense aching in his legs where he was stung.

With sightings of these hornets only being in B.C., the province’s urges those who have spotted these insects to contact the Invasive Species Council of B.C. immediately.

Written by: Angelo Cruz

This content is also available in: English

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