'Murder hornets' that mainly target bees appear in US for the fist time

The hornets are usually not aggressive towards humans until they are attacked

Asian giant hornets or so-called murder hornets, the world's largest hornets, have appeared in the US for the first time. In a country with a rapidly declining bee population, beekeepers are reporting dead bees with the head ripped off piling up because of the hornets. Scientists have said that the hornets are widely seen in the state of Washington.

The hornet is two inches long and is said to be one of the deadliest that can kill humans if bitten multiple times. Native to Asia, scientists are still clueless about how they came to the United States. The giant hornet was spotted in December last year for the first time and they were seen to be active over the last month.

Hornets attack honey bee hives and kill adult bees while consuming the bee larvae and pupae. The multiple stings from the hornets are big and painful and can kill humans. Washington state agricultural officials have requested beekeepers and residents to report any sighting of the giant hornets. Officials have asked people in the Whatcom, Skagit, Island, San Juan, Jefferson and Clallam counties to be more vigilant against the hornets.

Giant Asian Hornet
Giant Asian Hornet Wikimedia Commons

Most dangerous for European bees

According to scientists, the European bees are the most vulnerable to the potent venom and the attack of a hornet. In Washington district, there were four reports of the Asian hornets being sighted. The species is said to be the most active in the months of April and in parts of summer.

In a statement, the Washington State University Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist, Todd Murray, said: "It's a shockingly large hornet. It's a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honeybees."

He added that it is important to recognise the insect now when the population of the species is low and new to the region.

Around 50 people die every year in Japan after being stung by the Asian hornets. The hornets are not usually that aggressive towards humans until they are disturbed. They target bees and are aggressive towards them especially between summer and fall.