The murder hornets are spreading.
That’s right, those monstrous Asian giant hornets that have recently been popping up in Washington state and Canada are showing up in new places. This month, a woman in Langley, a town in southwest British Columbia, found and killed one, miles away from the traps officials set for them in the northwestern corner of the U.S., including near the border with British Columbia.
Scientists still aren’t sure how the murder hornets, which are native to the forests and mountains of eastern and southeast Asia, arrived in North America, though they think they may have come on ships or cargo planes. This new sighting suggests that the species’ distribution is larger than researchers previously thought it was, which could be bad news for native bees that have no natural defences against the murderous interlopers.
So far, all murder hornet sightings in the U.S. are far from where I live in Baltimore, but frankly, I’m still terrified. Have you seen these things? They have got sharp jaws, long and powerful stingers, and they can grow up to 5cm long. Straight-up nightmare shit. Sure, experts say they don’t pose a huge threat to humans because they don’t attack if they’re undisturbed — but they can kill you if you get stung multiple times. They kill up to 50 people in Japan every year! Plus, it still hurts to be stung by them. One Vancouver Island man who was stung said it felt like hot thumbtacks had been stuck into his leg, and that he had “throbbing muscular aches” in his legs for about 24 hours afterward.
The bigger threat, though, is to honeybees. The Asian giant hornets can kill an entire bee colony in a matter of hours, tearing off bees’ heads and smooshing up their bodies to feed on. It’s gruesome and also potentially environmentally terrible. Honeybees are already under siege due to habitat loss, pesticides, and the climate crisis. Beekeepers across the U.S. lost more than 40 per cent of their colonies from April 2018 to April 2019. The last thing honeybees need is yet another environmental threat.
Next week, experts plan to do a necropsy on the murder hornet found in Langley. If it’s a dead queen, that could be good — removing a queen can hinder a nest’s development. But if it’s just a worker hornet, the nest is probably still out there.
Experts are still hoping to eradicate the hornets before their spread gets even more out of control, but that it’s possible that we need to get used to them, because their nests are likely getting larger. Oh, and by the way, as the climate warms, the U.S. may become even more hospitable to these big murder boys. So like it or not (I don’t!), they may be around for a while.
But hey, at least you can eat them?