Murder hornets "decapitate" bees, UT expert says not to panic
Scientists say an invasive and potentially deadly species of hornets has made its way to the United States.
Asian giant hornets, which researchers have nicknamed “murder hornets,” have been spotted in Washington state.
Their venomous sting can kill humans if they are stung multiple times. The hornets are also strong enough to puncture a beekeeper’s suit.
WVLT News spoke to University of Tennessee entomologist Jennifer Tsuruda about them.
Tsuruda said while there is a concern about the sting, a larger concern is over the honey bee population and the bee keeping industry, as well as other types of bees in the U.S.
"There are already a number of health stressors that exist so adding this on top of that will make things even more complicated," she said. "These hornets will actually come into colonies, and they will decapitate the bees at the hive. They can decimate an entire colony." Honey bees and other native bees are important to the agriculture industry and "food sustainability," she added.
The hornets were first spotted in Washington state in December, and scientists believe they started becoming active again last month.
Tsuruda said the name "murder hornets" was a bit of "misnomer" because the hornets kill bees to feed themselves and their own offspring. "They aren't killing for the fun of it," she said.
If murder hornets thrive in the U.S., Tsuruda said it could change the bee keeping industry, not just for agricultural purposes, but also for the hobby of bee keeping itself.
"Things are going to be really messy" if the hornets start spreading, she said. "It'll be a lot harder to control later on when it's a bigger problem." She added that Washington's strategy of containment had been doing well by using citizens as surveillance and to search for nests, and their nests are underground.
"Be very vigilant," she said when it comes to spotting them; although she added that nobody needs to panic as it may take a while for the hornet to migrate to Tennessee.
Tsuruda said that they rely on citizens to reach out to their department with insects that they need identified. If you think you've come across a murder hornet, Tsuruda said that you can