Although the Asian Giant Hornet was first spotted last August on Vancouver Island, Canada, it wasn’t until May that news broke in the United States about the invasive insect on its way, with its ominous new name, “Murder Hornet”.
Unsurprisingly, it created much hysteria, with many purchasing hornet-killing pesticides, a reaction that would actually lead to the killing of more innocent pollinators.
After the first nest of Asian Giant Hornets was destroyed on 24th October in the state of Washington, it’s important to remember why they are such a threat, and to whom.
Asian Giant Hornets are easily identifiable for their size, they are one of the largest flying insects in the northern hemisphere and queens can grow to over 5cm long. But it is their ability to sting through fabric and shoot venom that heightens most people’s anxiety.
However, they’re not overly aggressive if their nests, typically found in the remote countryside, are left alone and people keep calm on encountering them.
Professor Stephen Martin, an entomologist at University of Salford, Manchester, points out that although “tens of people die each year in Japan from hornet stings, a few when they accidentally disturb a nest but most due to an allergy, many more people die from peanut allergies, but you don’t call them ‘Murder Peanuts’.”
It is our vital pollinators, the honeybees, that are in real danger however, and by extension our environment. Numbers of honeybees are already falling rapidly in the US due to habitat destruction, disease, and pesticides.
The arrival of the Asian Giant Hornet, a small group capable of killing over 35,000 honeybees in just a few hours, would be devastating for the honeybee population.
“Hornets are the top predators of the insect world and so when introduced into new environments, they usually cause massive problems,” said Professor Martin.
He believes that the destruction of the nest found in Washington was the “correct course of action due to their massive potential to damage the honeybee industry.” However, whether this will really have an impact on the spread of the “Murder Hornets”, only time will tell.