Giant 'murder' hornets spotted in the USA for the first time

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Scientists are now concerned that the hornets have invaded the U.S. and could destroy the native bee population.

At more than five centimetres long, they are the world's largest hornets with a sting that can kill humans if stung multiple times, researchers from Washington State University (WSU) said, nicknaming them "murder hornets".

Murray emphasized that they believe they will be able to eradicate the invasive hornets before they get a foothold in the United States. Canada also reported sightings in British Columbia last fall.

The hornets, which invade and destroy honeybee hives and kill up to 50 human beings a year with the potent neurotoxin delivered through their disturbingly large stinger, have experts anxious that North America's already decreasing honey bee population may take another hit if the Murder Hornets start hitting honeybee colonies - as will the crops they pollinate such as apples, blueberries and cherries.

The hornets have also reportedly been seen as far north as Vancouver Island.

BC residents are being told once again to look out for the Asian giant hornet, an invasive species that was detected in the province in August, 2019.

In this April 23, 2020, photo provided by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, a researcher holds a dead Asian giant hornet in Blaine, Wash.

A honeybee pollinating a flower
A honeybee pollinating a flower

Despite its deadly venom and sizable stinger, you still shouldn't fear Asian giant hornets, especially if you live in the U.S. Not only is the WSDA actively trying to eradicate the known populations of the hornets, but the odds of being stung by one are teensy tiny.

"They attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae, while aggressively defending the occupied colony", he added.

An example of a bottle trap that can be used to trap murder hornets.

Agriculture officials in Washington will start hunting these hornets and trapping queens this year. It is not known how they got here but Looney says the most likely cause if from a cargo ship between Asia and North America.

Murder hornets keep their nests underground where they generate heat of around 86 degrees, so heat sensitive technologies could help to locate the nests.

They also have an incredibly painful, toxic sting. Its sting can penetrate a regular beekeeper's suit, and state scientists had to order special reinforced suits. Worker hornets are around 3.5 centimetres in length, while queens can be up to four cm to five cm in length, with a wingspan of four cm to seven cm.

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