What are Asian giant hornets?

The Asian giant hornet is the largest of the world’s hornet species and is found naturally in places like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. Aggressive hunters, these hornets target larger insects including other hornets, big beetles, and even mantises. However, honey bees are a particular favorite food, and they can quickly wipe out any local colonies they encounter. Unless provoked, Asian giant hornets will not harm humans or animals, but they will sting multiple times if they feel threatened. When compared to other stinging insects, honeybees have a larger and more lethal stinger that can contain neurotoxins and puncture a beekeeper’s suit.

What do Asian giant hornets look like?

Queens of the Asian giant hornet can grow to a length longer than 2 inches. Their stinger is only a quarter of an inch long, and their wingspan is three inches. The largest distinguishing feature of this species is undoubtedly its enormous orange-yellow head, which features massive, bulging eyes and pointed mandibles. Furthermore, they have a series of yellow and dark brown stripes across their stomach. People may confuse these with European hornets or bald-faced hornets because of their similar look.

Nests of Asian giant hornets are often hidden deep below, making them difficult to find and inspect. Such an animal will excavate burrows or use tunnels already carved out by rodents as a place to raise young. Furthermore, these hornets like to hang around in the vicinity of decaying tree roots.

Why are they sometimes referred to as “murder hornets”?

Asian gigantic hornets have been referred to as “murder hornets” in some media and online forums. While this species has been linked to as many as fifty annual deaths in Japan, its ominous moniker stems from its vicious attacks on honey bees. Asian giant hornets are capable of destroying entire honey bee colonies in only a few short hours during an attack.

Due to their sharp mandibles, these hornets can decapitate and kill honey bees when they come to a hive. Asian giant hornets have a “slaughter phase” in which they can kill up to 40 honey bees each minute. This means that even a small number of hornets can completely destroy a colony in as little as 90 minutes. Since Asian giant hornets are far bigger and more protected than honey bees, even if the honey bees try to defend themselves by stinging their foes, they will probably lose. Hornets will feed their own young the larvae and pupae of the hive if they decimate a honey bee colony. The quantity of honey bees could be drastically reduced in the event of an infestation with these hornets.

Are there Asian Giant Hornets in America?

This species of hornet is native to Asia, but in December of 2019 it was spotted for the first time in the United States, in the state of Washington. There have been no documented sightings of Asian giant hornets in any other U.S. states as of yet, and efforts are underway in Washington state to stop their spread. However, bald-faced hornets and European hornets can be mistaken for Asian gigantic hornets due to their similar appearance.

Are Asian giant hornets a cause for concern?

It is quite improbable that anyone outside of Washington state will ever come into contact with the Asian Giant hornet because this species has not been documented as being established in the United States. In the event that these hornets become a well-established invasive species in the United States, they could have serious consequences for local ecosystems and human health.

In the meantime, though, ordinary stinging insects like wasps and yellowjackets pose a much greater threat to Americans than malaria. More than half a million people each year are treated for bites and stings from these insects. Species like the bald-faced hornet, which can sting multiple times thanks to its smooth stinger and widespread distribution across the United States, may be found all across the globe. Unlike most other stinging insects, bald-faced hornets will sting at anything that comes near their territory, regardless of how threatening it may seem at first.

What can I do to avoid an infestation of stinging insects?

  • Keep garbage can lids closed.
  • Remember to cover your food until you’re ready to dine outside.
  • When spending a lot of time outside, it’s best to avoid wearing strong-smelling perfumes or colognes.
  • Make sure the screens are in place on all of the home’s doors and windows, and fill in any holes or cracks you find outside.
  • Don’t make any sudden movements or noises if you encounter a stinging bug or happen onto its nest by accident. Don’t make sudden movements or flail your arms, as this could incite an assault.

What should I do if I’m stung?

  • It’s important to get rid of the stinger quickly so as to limit the venom’s spread.
  • Use soap and cold water to wash the area, and then apply cold compresses to bring down the swelling.
  • Call 911 immediately if you or someone you’re with gets any of the classic signs of an allergic response, including a swollen tongue or throat, lightheadedness, or trouble breathing.

If I find a nest, what should I do?

Getting rid of a nest of stinging insects is not a “do it yourself” project. If you try to get rid of a nest, the pests may become alarmed and may even launch a mass attack. Contact a pest control service immediately if you find a nest on your property. Infestations can be dealt with efficiently and safely by licensed specialists because they have the necessary equipment and knowledge.

Washington’s agriculture agency suggests that anyone who thinks they’ve seen an Asian gigantic hornet in a state other than Washington call their own state’s agriculture department right away.

 

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