After an unusual couple months in the world’s coronavirus pandemic, the internet has been buzzing about the giant “murder hornets” that’ve begun to invade the United States. What are they? And are they “invading” as the internet seems to claim?
The “murder hornet”, actually named the Asian giant hornet, is native to Asia and is the world’s largest species of hornet. They’ve been given this nickname due to their potentially lethal sting, and they're a significant predator of honey bees. They have a black and yellow striped abdomen, can range in size between 1.5 and 2 inches long and have large, yellow or orange heads with protruding eyes. These hornets can sometimes pose a lethal threat to hikers and farmers in the mountains of rural Japan. In the central Chubu region, the hornet is known as an edible delicacy. The larvae are often preserved in jars, pan-fried, or steamed with rice to make a piquant dish called hebo-gohan. The adults are fried on skewers, including the stinger, until the carapace becomes light and crunchy. They are said to leave a warm, tingling sensation when eaten. In Japanese culture, live giant hornets are also drowned in a clear liquor called shochu. Upon drowning, the hornets release their toxin into the liquid, and the liquor is stored until it turns a dark shade of amber.
Asian giant hornets are popular to hunt in Japan, and there are roughly 30-50 annual deaths in Japan due to these insects. In the early summer months, determined hunters will track the hornets to their gigantic nests. The nests can house as many as 1,000 hornets and their larvae. Hunters often keep giant hornet nests as prized trophies. Hunters use pieces of fish attached to a colored streamer to entice the hornets and as the hornets take the fish back to the nest, the hunters follow the streamers. After finding the nest, they stun the insects by smoking them out of the nest and use shovels to extract it.
The “murder hornets” were first found in the United States in December of 2019 in northern Washington state, and haven’t been seen anywhere else in the U.S. Washington officials are attempting to get the hornets under control before the species begins to spread throughout the United States, and effectively wiping out the honey bee population, the natural prey of the “murder hornet”.The Washington State Department of Agriculture has stated that the sting of a “murder hornet”can be serious and even life threatening if you are stung repeatedly or are allergic to stings. However, these hornets are not known to kill masses of people like the "murder hornet" label insinuates. But if you’re allergic and stung by one, you should seek medical attention. You should avoid these hornets, and report them to your state’s agriculture department if you see them. The internet has exaggerated the “invasion” of this species to the United States and, in reality, the honeybee population is more at risk than our human population. The WSDA is diligently working to keep our human and honey bee populations safe.
Article By: Alyssa Crum
Picture provided by cnet.com