If the year 2020 hasn’t been scary enough, fast-forward to 08 December 2020 when a local news station reported experts worried that “murder hornets” may hitch a ride to the islands via Christmas tree shipments. While the idea of murder hornets hitching a ride in our Christmas trees is possible, it’s likely that our honey bees and ecosystem would be most devastated by the invasion, and not the “murder” of human lives.If the year 2020 hasn’t been scary enough, fast-forward to 08 December 2020 when a local news station reported experts worried that “murder hornets” may hitch a ride to the islands via Christmas tree shipments. While the idea of murder hornets hitching a ride in our Christmas trees is possible, it’s likely that our honey bees and ecosystem would be most devastated by the invasion, and not the “murder” of human lives.
The murder hornet – also known as the Asian Giant Hornet – is mainly found in Asia. It is said that the Asian Giant Hornets got the nickname “murder hornets” from Japan because these hornets have killed people and because their stingers are able to penetrate heavy clothing and beekeeper suits. In fact, wasp and hornet stings combined killed “less than 13 people in Japan in 2017 and 2018”. When considering the amount of people in Japan, this is less than 0.00001% of the country’s entire population.
The Asian Giant Hornet is the world’s largest hornet at two inches long. So, seeing one might be a bit scary, but these hornets are not known to attack unless provoked. The Asian Giant Hornet has an ugly orange-yellowish face, releases about seven times the amount of venom as a bee, and can sting more than once. While the stings are extremely painful and any swollenness can last for many days, it is people that are allergic to wasp and bee stings that may be most vulnerable to severe reactions, and who may require medical attention.
The biggest concern with an invasion of Asian Giant Hornets might be the destruction it could cause to our honeybee population and ecosystem. Honeybees are not the only source of nourishment for these hornets, but if they get into a hive, Asian Giant Hornets rip the heads off the worker bees and the hive basically dies. Put into perspective: About every one in three bites of food each of us put in our mouths relies on honeybee pollination. In addition, Hawaii is the largest queen bee producer in the world. The State of Hawaii’s Apiary Program ships queen bees to the United States mainland and to Canada, both of which rely heavily on our exported queens. This means that if an Asian Giant Hornet infestation were to disrupt Hawaii’s bee industry, the disruption would also affect agricultural production in the rest of the United States and Canada.
Since the Asian Giant Hornets were found earlier this year in Washington state our Department of Agriculture has been diligently working to improve hornet detection programs to keep these hornets and others from invading our islands. If you believe you’ve seen an Asian Giant Hornet, please call the Department of Agriculture’s pest hotline at 808-643-7378 or their main office at 808-973-9560.
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