On top of a pandemic, the world is now worried about murder hornets taking over the skies. Luckily, they're not as deadly as they sound, and while they can have a devastating impact on some bee populations, they can provide other, more positive forms of pest control.
What Are Murder Hornets?
Murder hornets are named for their potential ability to annihilate honeybee populations. Native to Japan, these insects are characterized as “giant” and have huge faces that are a yellowish-orange shade. They can grow to be up to two inches long. According to the Washing State Department of Agriculture, these insects were first spotted in the United States last December in Washington State.
These insects are similar to bees and wasps in that they’ll aggressively defend their nests if they perceive a threat. They have a voracious appetite for other insects and need to eat quite a bit due to their size.
A common misconception going around is that they have the potential to kill humans, but that’s not why the Asian giant hornet got their name. While in extreme cases their venom could kill a vulnerable human, that's very unlikely. In fact, other insects, such as disease bearing mosquitoes, have proven themselves far more dangerous over the years.
Although the abundance of venom murder hornets possess does cause them to dole out some of the most painful stings. They're named for their tendency to attack beehives and kill the workers within in order to take the larvae and other resources of the hive to feed their own families.
Astoundingly, just 30 murder hornets can kill up to 30,000 domestic bees. They’re most destructive in the late summer and early fall, as reported by CNN.
Identifying Murder Hornets and Their Nests
Since these insects are so dangerous to the insect ecosystem, you’ll probably want to keep them away from your yard. For that reason, it’s important to be able to identify them and their nests.
There are distinct physical characteristics that make these insects fairly easy to spot. For instance, as mentioned above, they can grow to be up to two inches long and have a yellow head. They also have a distinctive black tooth that they use for burrowing.
Their nests usually reside at the base of large trees and inside dead logs, rarely in heavily populated urban areas. They do best in areas of low altitude and in forested areas rather than open spaces or plains.
Additionally, murder hornets cannot withstand extremely hot or cold temperatures, which means that they are likely to avoid places that experience these conditions. They’re unlikely to build a nest along the side of your home, as they prefer lower areas, in the ground or in a decaying log.
What to Do If You Spot a Murder Hornet or Its Nest
If you spot a murder hornet or a nest that you believe to belong to this species, it’s important that you not attempt to eradicate the hornets on your own. This is important for several reasons. First, since these are a newer species to the U.S., it can be easy to mistake a different type of insect for these bugs. Killing bugs that aren’t murder hornets would just be unnecessarily harming other wildlife, which is not good for the planet.
Bees, wasps, and other bugs that could be mistaken as a murder hornet are important pollinators and predators that ward off other harmful insects in the environment.
Another reason to keep your distance is that these bugs have the ability to produce very harmful stings. It might not kill you, but it won't feel great either.
Finally, since their presence in the U.S. is relatively new, experts are trying to collect as much data as possible, so reporting their presence to the professionals and letting them handle it is a must.
Keep your distance should you see, or believe that you see, a murder hornet or its nest. Contact a local authority and/or work with a professional pest exterminator to rid the bugs and nest from your yard. If you do decide to take out the nest yourself, use caution.