By: Malika Angaian (Correspondent)
The Asian giant hornet, Vespa Mandarinia, has recently migrated to the U.S for the first time and has the potential to cripple the U.S bee population.
News of their arrival has circulated quickly throughout social media. Possessing the power to decapitate bees, they are armed with strong venom that when delivered through their long stinger could potentially cause another complication for the country.
They also kill about 50 people a year in Japan.
Also known as the Murder Hornet, they are usually between 1.5 to 2 inches long and equipped with a large stinger that can produce a painful sting packed with neurotoxins. They have large yellow-orange heads, a yellow and black striped abdomen and prominent eyes. “They are like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face” said Susan Cobey, a bee breeder with the Washington State Universities of Entomology. They are most commonly confused with similar insects such as the bald faced hornet, cicada killers and yellow jackets.
Although scientists aren’t sure of the sort of environmental impact the hornets have in North American ecosystems, “they aren’t generally interested in humans or large animals, including pets. They mainly hunt insects for food and only sting as a defense mechanism if their nest is disturbed” said Amy Vu, the Extension Coordinator for the Honey Bee Research Laboratory at the University of Florida’s Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Many bug experts say that unless someone is a beekeeper or is a honeybee, they shouldn’t be worried about them attacking. “They’re not ‘murder hornets’, they’re just hornets.” argued Washington Agriculture Department entomologist, Chris Looney. But he says that a sting would still be pretty painful.
“When the stinger went into my arm, I had a wave come over me and I got super dizzy.” said Coyote Peterson, the host of his Youtube show who was stung in the middle of filming a video for his channel. Within minutes, it’s reported that his arm begins to swell in the area that he was stung and it’s obvious he’s in pain as he rolls on the ground and cries out.
If in fact you actually are a bee, then you’ve got a lot to worry about. These hornets ravage through honey bee populations, attacking bee hives. Along with decapitating and killing the adult bees they also eat the larvae and pupae. This could potentially be a problem to the bee population in the US which is “already on the decline” according to Palmer Haasch, a junior digital culture reporter.
In Asia the bees have learned to fight back. Researchers have observed that Japanese honeybees have formed ‘hot defensive bee balls’ that essentially cook the hornets at a temperature that the bees can withstand and the hornets cannot. “By surrounding the hornets and vibrating their flight muscles, the honeybees produce heat up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit.” explained Atsushi Ugajin and others who researched the unique defensive trait that Japanese honeybees possess.
A cluster of around 500 of the bees will pile on the hornet. Then the bees vibrate their flight muscles to produce heat and within 30 to 60 minutes, the hornet as well as a small number of bees will have perished.