Asian Giant Not A “Murder Hornet” But Still A Concern For Northwest Ag

Photo: WSDA

In December 2019, the Washington State Department of Agriculture put out a warning after Asian Giant hornets were discovered in the northwest corner of the state. But those insects have gained national and international fame recently after they were given the title Murder Hornet.

Washington State University’s Dr. Tim Lawrence said that title is a bit of a misnomer, but added the Asian Giant is the largest hornet on the planet and “the most intimidating and venomous insect in the world”.

But the main concern is what this hornet could do to pollinator populations across Washington. Lawrence said when a new species is introduced into an environment, there are no natural enemies, which could spell disaster for honey bees.

“The European honey bee, which did not evolve with the Asian hornet has no natural defense mechanisms and they are particularly susceptible to them.”

Lawrence added the hornets can kill thousands of honey bees destroying a colony in a short amount of time.

“We’ve only found two adults and we know through DNA analysis that one came from Japan, and one came from Korea.  We don’t know how they came in.”

Lawrence says it’s not clear if these two were brought over the Pacific by accident in a cargo ship, or if someone intentionally brought the hornets to North America.

And back to that Murder Hornet title, on average the Asian Giant kills 30-50 people per year in Japan, but Lawrence noted the Asian Giant is not aggressive and typically attacks when threatened.

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