Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Large hornet has target on its back

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SPOKANE, Wash. — The world’s largest hornet, a 2-inch killer dubbed the “Murder Hornet” with an appetite for honey bees, has been found in Washington state, where entomologi­sts were making plans to wipe it out.

The giant Asian insect, with a sting that could be fatal to some humans, is just now starting to emerge from winter hibernatio­n.

“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, a bee breeder at Washington State University.

“It’s a shockingly large hornet,” said Todd Murray, a WSU Extension entomologi­st and invasive species specialist.

“It’s a health hazard, and more importantl­y, a significan­t predator of honey bees.”

The hornet was sighted for the first time in the U.S. last December, when the state Department of Agricultur­e verified two reports near Blaine, Wash., close to the Canadian border. It also received two probable but unconfirme­d reports from sites in Custer, Wash., south of Blaine.

The hornet can sting through most beekeeper suits, deliver nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee and sting multiple times, the department said, adding that it ordered special reinforced suits from China.

The university said it isn’t known how or where the hornets arrived in North America.

It normally lives in the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia and feeds on large insects, including wasps and bees.

It was dubbed the “Murder Hornet” in Japan, where it is known to kill people.

The hornet’s life cycle begins in April, when queens emerge from hibernatio­n, feed on plant sap and fruit, and look for undergroun­d dens to build their nests.

Hornets are most destructiv­e in the late summer and early fall. Like a marauding army, they attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring larvae and pupae, WSU said.

Farmers depend on honey bees to pollinate many important northwest crops such as apples, blueberrie­s and cherries.

With the threat from giant hornets, “beekeepers may be reluctant to bring their hives here,” said Island County Extension scientist Tim Lawrence.

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