Giant “murder hornets” are buzzing in the news. Experts advise remaining calm about the big bug with the scary nickname—unless you’re a honeybee.
Asian giant hornets, Vespa mandarinia, are often called “murder hornets.” But don’t worry too much. These one-and-a-half-to-two-inch members of the wasp family aren’t after humans. They kill other insects, mostly honeybees. Each monster hornet can chomp the heads off 40 honeybees per minute. Fewer than 50 hornets can wipe out an entire beehive in under an hour!
Murder hornets have orange noggins and striped abdomens. Bee breeder Susan Cobey says the pumpkin-headed wasps look “like something out of a monster cartoon.”
The large flying insects are equipped with quarter-inch stingers. Those can threaten humans because they inject a stronger-than-normal venom. Multiple giant hornet stings could kill a human—though experts agree that such attacks happen rarely.
“It’s a really nasty sting for humans,” says bee expert Keith Delaplane. “A dozen [stings], you are OK; 100, not so much.”
Creation is full of strange and frightful creatures: snakes, sharks, murder hornets. Yet God tells His children not to fear things that can kill the body. Christians should stand in awe of (fear) Him alone, the one with authority to save or condemn! (Luke 12:5)
Most bug-savvy scientists say murder hornet stories are overstated. Some compare them to 1970s headlines about African “killer bees.” The bees were real, but they didn’t match the horrifying news stories.
“This is 99% media hype and frankly I’m getting tired of it,” says entomologist Doug Tallamy. “Murder hornet? Please.”
Experts say the real story involves barely more than a handful of the bugs showing up on North American soil: two dead hornets found in Washington last December and another in May, a single live nest found (and wiped out) in Canada last September, and another live wasp that was quickly crushed by the woman who found it in April. The United States has no documentation of other live hornets in the country this year.
Another thing: Insect scientists want everyone to lose the nickname, despite the hornets’ brutal treatment of bees. “They are not ‘murder hornets.’ They are just hornets,” says entomologist Chris Looney.
Entomologist May Berenbaum says, “People are afraid of the wrong thing.”
Asian giant hornets at most kill a few dozen people worldwide each year. The real killer of the insect world is the common mosquito. Mosquitos likely kill at least a million people every year from dengue fever, malaria, and other diseases.
“The scariest insects out there are mosquitos,” says Berenbaum. “If anyone’s a murder insect, it would be a mosquito.”
Did You Know?
Asian honeybees have a defense plan for a murder hornet attack: They surround the invading hornet, buzzing frantically to raise the temperature around it and reduce the oxygen it can receive. The unsuspecting hornet ends up suffocated and roasted. So far, American honeybees don’t seem to have caught on to this cooking tip.