Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Asian murder hornets touch down in US, meet a sticky end

They are a danger to honeybees which they decapitate by the thousand and feed to their young.

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Feared orange-headed giant murder hornets have finally arrived on the American continent.

Pacific coast Washington state and the Canadian province of British Columbia are the only places the hornets have so far been seen in north America. Experts believe they may have arrived on container ships from Asia.

The murderous insects can grow to over 6cm long and are nicknamed murder hornets for the way just 50 of them can kill hives of up to 50,000 worker honeybees by decapitation to feed their young.

On Saturday, a Washington State Department of Agriculture crew found and destroyed their first-ever nest. It was located by entomologists who used dental floss to attach radio trackers to captured hornets and then were able to track them to their nest, which was the size of a rice cooker and home to nearly 100 hornets.

Wearing astronaut-style suits, the nest-elimination crew gingerly wrapped the nest in cellophane and then vacuumed the hornets from their hive into large canisters.

“The eradication went very smoothly,” managing entomologist Sven Spichiger said in a press release. “This is only the start of our work to hopefully prevent the Asian giant hornet from gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest.”

Murder hornets can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but do not generally kill many people in Asia. On average 80 people are killed by them in Japan every year.

Europe has also seen its first murder hornets. On Oct 3 a fruit picker was attacked and killed by several of them in Portugal.

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