Murder hornets could spread ‘rapidly’ across US if action not taken

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Murder hornets could spread ‘rapidly’ across America if action is not taken to contain them, scientists warn

  • Seven Asian giant hornets have been discovered in Washington so far this year
  • It has prompted fears that the country could soon be facing an invasion
  • Asian giant hornets target honeybee hives and can kill 40 bees every minute
  • The species has seven times the venom of bee so multiple stings can kill humans

Murder hornets could spread ‘rapidly’ across America if action is not taken to contain them, scientists have warned.

A male Asian giant hornet was trapped by researchers in Whatcom County, Washington, earlier this year – the first ever male of the species to be found in the US.

Seven others have been discovered since July 14 which has prompted fears that the country could soon be facing an invasion.

‘This could be, if it were to become established, one of the most damaging invasive species that we could almost imagine,’ said Washington State University entomologist David Crowder. 

A male Asian giant hornet (pictured) was trapped by researchers in Whatcom County, Washington, earlier this year - the first ever male of the species to be found in the US

A male Asian giant hornet (pictured) was trapped by researchers in Whatcom County, Washington, earlier this year – the first ever male of the species to be found in the US

Seven others have been discovered since July 14 which has prompted fears that the country could soon be facing an invasion (the male Asian giant hornet pictured)

Seven others have been discovered since July 14 which has prompted fears that the country could soon be facing an invasion (the male Asian giant hornet pictured)

The study carried out by the university analyzed more than 200 records from the insect’s native habitats in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

It determined that due to their preferred climate they may colonize parts of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia within the next 20 years.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WDSA) have now set-up 1,400 traps in the area to capture the hornets live in order to tag and track them back to the nest.

If researchers are able to locate a nest, it will be eradicated. 

Asian hornets have a dark brown or black velvety body, have a yellow or orange band on the fourth segment of the abdomen and have yellow-tipped legs. 

They are the world’s largest species of hornet and typically measure around two inches long. 

The Asian giant hornet are the world's largest species of hornet and typically measure around two inches long. Pictured: Asian giant hornet (bottom) pictured next to a native bald-faced hornet (top) collected in a trap

The Asian giant hornet are the world’s largest species of hornet and typically measure around two inches long. Pictured: Asian giant hornet (bottom) pictured next to a native bald-faced hornet (top) collected in a trap

Asian giant hornets are more than double the size of honeybees, and have a wingspan measuring more than three inches

Asian giant hornets are more than double the size of honeybees, and have a wingspan measuring more than three inches

Asian giant hornets are more than double the size of honeybees, and have a wingspan measuring more than three inches.   

In December 2019, the WSDA received and verified two reports of Asian giant hornet near Blaine, Washington, close to the Canadian border.

These were the first-ever sighting in the United States. 

Canada had also discovered Asian giant hornet in two locations in British Columbia in the fall of 2019. 

Asian giant hornets target honeybee hives and can kill 40 bees in under one minute.

The hornets enter a ‘slaughter phase’ where they kill bees by decapitating them before then defending the hive as their own and taking the brood to feed their own young.  

The species does not tend to attack people or pets but can be fierce when threatened.  

Their stinger is also longer than that of a honeybee, which means it can sting though beekeeping suits.

The Washington Department of Agriculture announced that officials captured their first Asian giant hornet (pictured) in a bottle trap in Watcom County

The Washington Department of Agriculture announced that officials captured their first Asian giant hornet (pictured) in a bottle trap in Watcom County

It also delivers nearly seven times the amount of venom that contains neurotoxin, which is capable of causing both cardiac arrest and anaphylactic shock, the department said.

It has previously been stated that multiple stings can kill humans even if they are not allergic. 

‘Preventing the establishment and spread of Asian giant hornets in western North America is critical for protecting bees and beekeepers,’ said Crowder. 

The bee population has been on a concerning decline for years and their eradication could have detrimental affects on the environment. 

A survey by the U.S. National Agriculture Statistics Services showed that  the population declined from six million hives in 1947 to 2.4 million hives in 2008, a 60 per cent reduction. 

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