The Asian giant hornet is a big, mean-looking insect with a potent sting. In fact, it’s the biggest hornet species in the world. A video from National Geographic said they were “about as big as a matchbox.”
Their queens can grow to be up to two inches long and their quarter-inch stingers can pierce normal beekeeping attire. They are also voracious predators capable of massacring entire honey bee hives in a matter of hours—decapitating thousands of the hive’s adult bees and absconding with the helpless larvae to feed the hornets’ own brood.
The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has arrived in North America. In the past several day’s photographs and videos have surfaced showing how viciously this insect has attacked honeybees: it crawls into hives and rips off the heads of bees in large numbers—making its supervillain nickname, “murder hornet,” feel disturbingly apt. Government agencies and local beekeepers have sprung into action, hoping to eradicate the hornet before it can consolidate a foothold in the continent. Success may lie in how predators and prey interact naturally.
And Beekeepers and government agents hope to eradicate V. mandarinia before it becomes entrenched because no human wants to deal with this hornet either. Milligram for milligram, its venom may be less toxic than a honeybee’s, but the hornet is so much larger than it packs a bigger dose—and it can sting again and again. People stung by the hornet have described the experience as like being stabbed with a hot metal pin. The stinger is long enough to pierce the standard protective gear beekeepers wear. A recent article in the New York Times claims that up to 50 people in Japan die from V. mandarinia stings each year. Finding and destroying nests, which are mostly made underground, is the key.