Washington state officials found something horrifying earlier this year: live specimens of “murder hornets.”
The super aggressive flying insect, also known as the Asian giant hornet, was first spotted in the United States in the Pacific Northwest in December of 2019. However, at the time, only dead hornets were found. Five months later, officials discovered these scary creatures coming out of hibernation, sounding alarm across the nation.
Just last month, an entire murder hornet nest was found north of Seattle. An investigation of this nest found 500 live specimen – all in various stages of development, according to ABC News. The nest also contained 200 queen bees, and each of those queens has the potential to start its own nest somewhere else.
“As far as we can tell, we got there just in time,” Sven-Erik Spichiger, entomologist, who is leading the charge against the invasive species, told ABC. “We know from the literature that a small percentage of these will go on to form colonies next year, should they have been given the chance to escape.”
The two inch long killers can pose a real threat to bee populations around the country. They can destory beehives in just hours, decapitating the gentle honeybees and feeding the corpses to their own offspring.
And yes, their stings hurt like hell. However, they are not deadly to humans unless you go into anaphylactic shock after being swarmed by dozens of them.
“From accounts we have, we’re very close to having the majority of [the queen bees], but I can’t give you an absolute, certainly, that we got every single one from the nest,” Spichiger said.
Washington officials have set hundreds of traps to fight the invasive species and eliminate them from the state. It’s an uphill battle, though, as bee populations are already in decline.
Luckily, the murder hornets will start to go dormant around Thanksgiving. But if last year is any indication, some of the killers could still be flying until mid-December.
“The more people are outside and looking at this time of year, the more chances we have,” Spichiger told ABC.