Science

The Murder Hornets are here

Here's what you need to know.

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You might have heard about a “murder hornet” that’s been spotted in Washington State.

This nickname refers to the Asian Giant Hornet (Vespa mandarinia), the world’s largest hornet.

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Asian Giant Hornets grow to be 1.5 to 2 inches long and are generally found all around Asia, in places like Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea.

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And as of late 2019, the hornets’ home expanded to British Columbia and Washington state.

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In December 2019, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) received and verified four reports of Asian Giant Hornet sightings in Bellingham and Blaine, Washington. These were the first-ever US sightings.

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In November, Asian Giant Hornets were spotted in British Columbia.

Genetic tests on specimens revealed that these were not related to the Blaine hornets, suggesting two separate introductions.

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Asian Giant Hornets eat honey bees for protein. They can destroy a honey bee colony in a matter of hours, leaving behind piles of dead bees.

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Honey bees are already threatened by habitat loss, diseases, and pesticides. Asian Giant Hornets could wreak havoc on the remaining colonies.

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The hornets become active in April when the queen emerges from hibernation and starts looking for a suitable den to raise her young.

“This is our window to keep it from establishing,” Chris Looney, an entomologist at the WSDA, told the New York Times. “If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”

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Other insects can be mistaken as Asian Giant Hornets. Here are a few.

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Paper wasps are smaller than Asian Giant Wasps, more slender, and do not have the characteristic yellow and orange head.

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Bald-faced Hornets are black and white and only an inch long.

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Yellow Jackets are much smaller than an Asian Giant Hornet at less than an inch long.

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If you spot a suspected Asian Giant Hornet, the WSDA says to call your state’s department of agriculture.

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