‘Murder hornets’ spotted in Washington State

Chancey Boyce, Reporter

A species of hornet native to East Asia known as the “Japanese giant hornet” has been spotted in Washington State. This species is the world’s largest hornet, growing up to two inches long. It contains a sting which can kill human beings, and is known to be predatory to regular bees. The hornet was spotted for the first time in December 2019 in parts of northern Washington, close to the Canadian border. Epidemiologists in the region are working on a system to track and eradicate the hornets.

According to CBS news, these insects, known colloquially as ‘Murder Hornets’, are responsible for the deaths of 50 people each year in their native Japan. However, the real danger these hornets pose is as an invasive species. Researchers at Washington State University recently described how several hornets of this particular species are capable of attacking and taking down entire beehives, decapitating adult bees and eating larvae and pupae in a matter of hours. 

In the United States, this poses a particular threat. Honeybees pollinate hundreds of flowers and plants each day, supplying up to 90 percent of the entire world’s nutrition crops, and are already disappearing at a rapid pace (Greenpeace). If vast swathes of these ‘murder hornets’ got into the large industrial farms that supply large amounts of America’s and the world’s food, it could mean devastation to supply chains. 

Speaking to AFP news agency, Washington Department of Agriculture Spokesperson Karla Salp said that there is no definitive explanation as to how the ‘murder hornets’ were transported to America.

Normally, though, they are unwitting hitchhikers on something, like shipping containers, or someone,” Salp said.

Local authorities in Washington are already beginning to employ infrared technology and set traps to ensnare, track and eradicate this invasive species of hornet. 

Experts hope that the Japanese giant hornet will be extinct in the United States within the next couple of years.