Asian Giant Hornets (Vespa mandarinia), also known as “Murder Hornets” have now been found in the United States for the first time ever. Although scientists are unsure when or how these pests first arrived, there have been verified sightings as far back as December in Washington state. These hornets were also discovered back in August 2019 in Canada in both British Columbia and Vancouver Island.
Asian Giant Hornets are larger than typical species of hornets with an average length of 1.5 to 2 inches. They have large yellow to orange heads with prominent eyes. They also have yellow/orange and black stripes extending down their abdomen.
“Murder hornets” are known to be aggressive. While they don’t typically go after humans, they will attack if they are disturbed or threatened. Their stingers are longer and more dangerous than those of bees and are even capable of penetrating typical beekeeper suits. They will attack aggressively in groups and their collective stings can administer enough toxic venom to be equivalent to the bite from a venomous snake. Multiple stings to a person can be fatal. In fact, these hornets are known to kill up to 50 people per year in Japan.
The life cycle of the Asian Giant Hornet begins in April prompting concern from scientists and researchers that a wave of these predators is imminent. Queens will soon be emerging from hibernation in search of new locations for underground nests. Once these are established, workers will be sent out in search of food for the newfound colony. This usually happens in late summer and early fall.
These “murder hornets” are a significant predator to honeybees, one of the most important pollinators in the United States. In fact, Asian Giant Hornets are capable of wiping out an entire honeybee hive in a matter of a few hours. The worker hornets will decapitate the bees and bring their thoraces back to the colony to feed their young. This is problematic for the US as honeybee and other pollinator populations are already on the decline. Pollinators increase the United States’ annual crop values by $15 billion.
Because of this threat to the honeybee population, scientists are actively searching for Asian Giant Hornets and their nests to keep their population from becoming established and completely eradicating the bee population here. The fact that these hornets’ nests are often found underground coupled with the ideal and vast climate and landscape of Washington state, tracking down these nests is quite difficult. Scientists have mapped out search grids and are moving painstakingly across the state in search of these pests. They are placing traps with geotagging and implementing geothermal imaging of the forest floors. They also have plans to try other methods in the future such as tracking the signature hum the hornets make when they are in flight and tagging and tracking any hornets that are caught in the traps.
While the “murder hornets” don’t pose an immediate threat to the Southeast states right now, it’s important to be aware of the destruction they can cause. For any questions regarding bees or other pests, contact a Northwest team member at (888) 466-7849 or request a free estimate now.