A small number of Asian Vespa crabro sightings within the Pacific Northwest has raised alarm after a nickname for the predators started trending on Twitter Saturday: “Murder Hornet.”
While experts are tracking the invasive species within the U.S. for months, a replacement York Times feature published Saturday brought nickname to the national consciousness.
It’s a fittingly upsetting nickname, supported a lengthy March presentation from Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney.
It opened with a slide listing other ominous titles for the the most important hornet within the world: “yak killer hornet” and “giant sparrow bee” among them.
This spring, the Washington state Department of Agriculture started looking for Asian giant hornets after two confirmed sightings of the predator.
And while officials are concerned, especially for local honeybee populations, the danger to the typical person is low at this point Looney, confirmed to USA TODAY Saturday.
The hornets are “probably not getting to murder someone … don’t panic,” Looney said.
Sightings are limited to the Pacific Northwest , although the smaller European hornet is usually mistaken for the Asian Vespa crabro on the East Coast .
For humans unfortunate enough are available contact with an Asian Vespa crabro , Looney had simple advice in his March presentation: “Just run away.”
The predators kill between 40 and 50 people annually in Japan – many victims suffer from allergies, but some have died from the potency of the venom alone, he said.
Rare complications can include localized necrosis, respiratory failure, renal failure , liver damage and blood clots.
But the more immediate danger within the us is to an already vulnerable honeybee population.
Looney described a lifecycle where Asian giant hornets attack individual honeybees within the early summer – turning prey into a “meatball” to feed to hornet larvae.
Soon, the hornets abandon this “hunting phase” in favor of the “slaughter phase” – the wholesale killing of bee colonies therefore the hornets can plunder their hives.
Efforts to contain the spread of the hornets, which feed on virtually any insect additionally to honeybees, are ramping up in recent weeks, Looney said Saturday.
One thing local residents can do to help: Report suspected sightings to the Washington State Department of Agriculture.