Hundred of soldiers were decapitated and mutilated protecting their queen from a monstrous invader. I’m not talking about an upcoming fantasy-horror epic; this was the scene outside a Washington State beehive in late 2019, where a colony of drones was decimated in a single evening, most likely by a giant Asian hornet, a species appropriately dubbed the “Murder Hornet”.
Beekeeper Ted McFall isn’t certain a “Murder Hornet” is responsible for the destruction of his hive, but the beast fits the bill. Giant Asian hornets have mandibles that can easily decapitate an American Honey Bee, and their soft thoraxes are a queen hornet’s favorite food (said queens can grow as big as two inches long!). Giant Asian hornets kill up to 50 people a year in Japan, as the insects can be as venomous as snakes. Those unlucky enough to get stung describe a sensation like being stabbed with a red-hot needle.
“Beyond its size, the hornet has a distinctive look, with a cartoonishly fierce face featuring teardrop eyes like Spider-Man, orange and black stripes that extend down its body like a tiger, and broad, wispy wings like a small dragonfly.” (Source)
The New York Times tells the tale of Conrad Bérubé, a beekeeper tasked with destroying an invasive colony of “Murder Hornets” from a hive in British Columbia. Despite wearing several layers under his suit, he was stung over 7 times.
“It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,” he said. The night he got stung, Mr. Bérubé still managed to eliminate the nest and collect samples, but the next day, his legs were aching, as if he had the flu. Of the thousands of times he has been stung in his lifetime of work, he said, the Asian giant hornet stings were the most painful.
Biologists are currently combing the woods of the Pacific Northwest, looking for these potentially killer invaders. Let’s hope we can find and evict them before they dig in any deeper.
And you thought Killer Bees were scary!