Move over African killer bees, beware Candyman, there is a new species of flying terror hitting America, and they are three times larger than the size of a regular bee, and will literally eat you for breakfast.
The internet has been abuzz lately with news of the arrival of Vespa mandarinia nicknamed “murder hornets,” a species of wasp invading American honeybee populations with murderous fervor.
First spotted in Washington state late last year these killer fiends are expected to become a big problem this spring, enough so that Washington State University has put out an APB on the predators.
“Just like that, it’s forever different,” species specialist Todd Murray said. “We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance.”
With their lifecycles beginning in April and ending in fall, this could be the summer in which they establish themselves as a major threat to North America.
“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, bee breeder with Washington State University’s Department of Entomology (WSDA).
Murray adds, “It’s a shockingly large hornet. It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honey bees.”
In the 70’s America experienced a similar environmental threat that disaster movie king Irwin Allen made the subject of one of his epic films.
The Swarm, based on the novel by Arthur Herzog, saw humans fighting off killer bees capable of administering a hallucinogenic and deadly sting.
Unfortunately for the characters in that story, they didn’t have the Vespa to help eradicate the bees. These wasps are notorious for killing off entire honeybee colonies by biting off their heads.
Interestingly the Japanese honeybee has developed a defense strategy against the invaders. They surround it and create heat by vibration essentially cooking the predator to death.
Blamed for killing 50 people a year in Japan, even bee suits are defenseless against the flying monsters as their stingers can penetrate the fabric. Experts say to not go up against these things on your own.
“Don’t try to take them out yourself if you see them,” said WSDA entomologist Chris Looney. “If you get into them, run away, then call us! It is really important for us to know of every sighting, if we’re going to have any hope of eradication.”
For questions about protecting honey bees from hornets, contact WSU Extension scientist Tim Lawrence at (360) 639-6061 or [email protected].