Inside terrifying rise of ‘murder hornets’ in the US as nest of 1,500 is eradicated & how to stop numbers EXPLODING
THE alarming rise in sightings of "murder hornets" has prompted fears among experts that the vicious insect could establish itself in the US, posing a serious "health hazard."
So-called murder hornets, otherwise known as the Asian giant hornet, are the world's largest hornet species and get their nickname from the aggressive attacks they carry out on other hives, wiping them out in hours.
They decapitate other bees, wasps, and hornets and then use the bodies to feed their young.
For larger targets, the huge hornets deploy their potent venomous stinger, which is equivalent to that of a venomous snake and has been likened by victims to being stabbed by a hot metal prong.
Multiple stings can also prove deadly to humans, even those who are not allergic. In Japan, where the hornets are most common, the insects are said to be responsible for the deaths of around 50 people each year.
The two-inch-long insects were first sighted in North America in August 2019, in British Columbia, Canada.
Within months, by December 2019, the matchbox-sized insects were spotted south of the border in Washington state.
Experts are unsure specifically when the Asian giant hornet first landed in North America, however, their population is steadily increasing.
Earlier this week, officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) revealed that they had destroyed the first murder hornet nest of the season, which contained around 1,500 of the insects.
The nest was discovered on August 25 in the base of a dead alder tree in rural Blaine, Washington, around two miles from where another nest was found in October 2020.
To eradicate the hive, state workers in protective clothing began by vacuuming 113 worker hornets from the nest. Then the team began removing bark and decayed wood near the base of the alder tree.
“While we are glad to have found and eradicated this nest so early in the season, this detection proves how important public reporting continues to be,” Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, said in a statement.
“We expect there are more nests out there and, like this one, we hope to find them before they can produce new queens.”
Spichiger added that this group of murder hornets was "more aggressive" than the one discovered last year.
No one was injured in the extraction, he said, however a number of the hornets did attempt to sting the workers.
The nest was discovered after officials netted three hornets and fitted them with tracking devices between August 11 and August 17.
WSDA has urged the public to remain vigilant and contact them immediately if they spot any of the insects.
More than half of confirmed Asian giant hornet sightings in Washington and all in Canada came from the public, WSDA has previously stated.
The invasive insect is typically found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, and a number of other Asian nations.
They will attack people and pets when threatened and members of the public should be extremely cautious near them, officials said.
Speaking to the BBC last year, Todd Murray, a scientist at Washington State University called the "shockingly large" insect's presence in North America a "health hazard."
"More importantly, [they are] a significant predator of honeybees."
The hornets are feared for the threat they pose to the US's already dwindling honeybee population and, as consequence, the valuable crops in The Evergreen State that the bees pollinate.
Pollinators such as honeybees are responsible for one of every three bites of food taken in the US, and increase the country's crop values every year by more than $15 billion, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
However, honeybee colonies in the US plummeted from six million to 2.5 million between 1947 and 2017.
And a report by the University of Maryland in 2019 found that 40 percent of the country's honeybee colonies died in a single winter between October 2018 and April 2019 – the largest loss of its kind.
RACE AGAINST TIME
Murder hornets also prey on local pollinators such as wasps, posing a threat to the local ecosystem, state entomologists have said.
To make matters worse, they're also incredibly difficult to track down and kill.
Dr. Chris Looney, an entomologist at WSDA, told the New York Times last year that Washington is facing a "serious problem."
The agency has already killed six or seven hives in the state.
Looney said WSDA has embarked on a full-scale hunt to track down the hornets, setting hundreds of traps in an effort to eradicate the creatures altogether.
But they're in a race against time, he said.
“This is our window to keep it from establishing,” Looney urged. “If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”
Source: Read Full Article