Murder Hornets’ from Asia spotted in U.S. for first time

The world’s largest species of hor­net, which can wipe out a hon­ey­bee hive in a mat­ter of hours, has been spot­ted for the first time in the Unit­ed States, accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (WSDA).

Asian giant hornets—also known as “mur­der hor­nets,” the “Giant Spar­row Bee,” and the “yak killer”—measure up to 2 inch­es long and prey on large insects, such as pray­ing man­tis­es, wasps, oth­er hor­nets, as well as bees. They are so lethal that just one can kill 40 Euro­pean hon­ey bees in one minute, while a small group of them can dec­i­mate an entire bee colony, decap­i­tat­ing them and tak­ing the hive as their own and using the tho­rax­es from the dead bees to feed their young.


Their stingers are also long and strong enough to punc­ture bee­keep­ing suits, and as a result can be dead­ly to humans, as a group of them can expose vic­tims to dos­es of tox­ic ven­om equiv­a­lent to that of a ven­omous snake. The ven­om can destroy red blood cells, result­ing in kid­ney fail­ure and even­tu­al death.

Over a three-month peri­od in 2013, Asian giant hor­nets killed 42 peo­ple and injured 1,675 more in Chi­na, while Japan reports that the dead­ly hor­nets kill 50 peo­ple a year.

Despite the killer hor­nets being native to tem­per­ate and trop­i­cal East­ern Asia, in Decem­ber 2019, The Wash­ing­ton Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (WSDA) received and ver­i­fied four reports of Asian giant hor­nets near Blaine and Belling­ham. These are the first-ever sight­ings in the Unit­ed States. Cana­da had also dis­cov­ered Asian giant hor­nets in two loca­tions in British Colum­bia in the fall of 2019. Sci­en­tists do not know how the hor­nets entered North America.

The New York Times described the hornet’s dis­tinc­tive look as hav­ing “a car­toon­ish­ly fierce face fea­tur­ing teardrop eyes like Spi­der-Man, orange and black stripes that extend down its body like a tiger, and broad, wispy wings like a small drag­on­fly.” The WSDA recent­ly pub­lished a poster show­ing what the Asian Giant Hor­net looks like and its notable dif­fer­ence in size com­pared to sev­er­al oth­er insects.

Researchers, eager to stop the mur­der hor­nets from estab­lish­ing a home in the Unit­ed States and dec­i­mat­ing bee pop­u­la­tions, have since launched a full-scale hunt for the hornets.

“This is our win­dow to keep it from estab­lish­ing,” Chris Looney, an ento­mol­o­gist at the Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, told the NY Times. “If we can’t do it in the next cou­ple of years, it prob­a­bly can’t be done.”