With all the hype about the 2-inch “murder hornets” invading the U.S., it’s no wonder people are fearing the worst, but experts are saying there’s no reason to panic.
Reports the last few weeks have stated the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) can kill humans and behead honeybees. University of Missouri-Columbia entomologist Kevin Rice hopes to alleviate some concerns.
“The name circulating on social media is misleading,” Rice said. “Scientists do not use the term ‘murderous’ to describe this interesting insect. These headlines sound like something from a Stephen King story and instill unnecessary fear.”
MU Extension horticulturist Tamra Reall added the hornet is not unusually aggressive and only attacks humans when provoked. She went on to say in Japan, only 50 people a year die from the hornet’s “potent venom.” This pales in comparison to the 200 deaths a year in the U.S. due to vehicle accidents caused by deer.
Rice said the hornet hasn’t invaded Missouri yet, and possibly won’t.
Local beekeeper Cater Fawkes, vice president of the West Central Beekeeping Association and owner of Holder Hill Honey, has 20 honeybee colonies in Nelson. He said Missouri beekeepers aren’t worried about the giant hornets.
“From what I understand from the University (MU) and some of the other universities … there’s been some sightings and they have found some colonies in Washington and British Columbia,” he added. “They say the likelihood of them getting here is pretty low or it will take a long time.”
Fawkes, of Marshall, said he’s not put “much energy” into worrying about the hornets.
“Now, in Europe and England they’ve developed some techniques to trap them,” he noted. “They have built some techniques that they try and make their hive less successful by putting wires on there.
“Those might be techniques we’ll have to do in the future,” he continued. “Of course, dealing with an insect around an insect, you can’t use pesticide. So, these murder hornets, as they call them … they do look kind of ugly but they are really efficient at killing honeybees.”
Fawkes added the problem U.S. beekeepers like himself find with keeping European honeybees is they have no defense against the invading hornet.
“Basically they (Asian hornet) go in and chew their head off and take it back to their young,” he said. “The Asian honeybees … they have evolved and developed a defense against them. So, they can take care of themselves.”
Fawkes said he believes experts will eradicate the Asian hornet before they reach Missouri.
“People being a little scared of them and worried about them, I think is pretty normal,” he added. “But as beekeepers … I’m not worried about them at all.”
For more information, find the West Central Beekeepers Association on Facebook.