Murder Hornets: 5 Things We Know So Far

Bees are dying at an alarming rate, and murder hornets could make it even worse.
Bees are dying at an alarming rate, and murder hornets could make it even worse.
Kagenmi/iStock via Getty Images

In the last few days, it’s been widely reported that a menacing insect known as the “murder hornet” has now made its way to the U.S. from its native Asia, causing alarm among people both with and without entomophobia (fear of insects). While its supersized stinger and crab-like facial pincers make it seem like something straight out of a horror film, there’s no need to don a bulletproof suit for your next stroll in the garden. Here are five things to know about these beasts.

1. The murder hornet's real name is Asian giant hornet.

At 1.5 to 2 inches long, Asian giant hornets, or Vespa mandarinia, are the largest hornet species in the world. They’re characterized by orange and black tiger-like stripes, and according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA), their nests are most commonly found in the ground.

2. Murder hornets got their nickname because they can kill humans—but not as easily as you may think.

Jun-ichi Takahashi, a researcher Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan, told The New York Times that scientists nicknamed the insects “murder hornets” because they sometimes attack in groups, and the venom from multiple stings can be lethal enough to kill a human—but they don’t usually target humans unless they feel threatened. (In other words, don’t try to swat away a giant hornet.)

While a single sting may not be fatal, it’s still significantly more painful than a regular bee or hornet sting, and the hornet's stinger—nearly one-fourth of an inch long—is big enough to rip through a beekeeping suit. “It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,” Conrad Bérubé, a Canadian entomologist and beekeeper who was stung while eradicating a nest found on Vancouver Island, told The New York Times. The next day, he experienced flu-like aches in his legs.

3. Murder hornets pose a serious threat to honeybees.

The most common victim of a murder hornet’s homicidal tendencies is the honeybee. The hornets use their long, spiked mandibles to tear the heads off bees, and they carry the bees’ thoraxes back to their nests to feed their young. In mere hours, a few hornets can completely destroy an entire beehive.

4. In the U.S., murder hornets have only been spotted in Washington state (so far).

In December 2019, four sightings of Asian giant hornets, which are native to Japan, China, and other parts of Asia, were reported in Washington state—marking the first time the species had ever been seen in the U.S. They were also spotted in British Columbia, Canada, last year. After conducting genetic tests on specimens, scientists determined that the hornets from British Columbia had no relation to one from Washington, suggesting that the species was introduced into North America on at least two separate occasions.

5. Scientists and beekeepers are working hard to keep murder hornets from spreading across the U.S.

Because the giant hornets kill bees in such large numbers, entomologists, beekeepers, and other researchers are worried about the devastating effect they could have on the already dwindling bee population if they were to become an established invasive species in the U.S. To prevent that from happening, they’re trying to locate giant hornets and exterminate their nests as quickly as possible.

“This is our window to keep it from establishing,” Chris Looney, a WSDA entomologist, told The New York Times. “If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”

Beekeepers are setting up hornet traps near beehives, hoping to catch one of the predators so they can track it back to its nest. Since the hornets' activity inside their nests can raise the temperature to 86°F, scientists are also looking into the possibility of using thermal imaging to locate them.

[h/t The New York Times]

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse 3.5 Quarts; $180 (save $120)

- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

- JoyJolt Double Wall Insulated Espresso Mugs - Set of Two; $14 (save $10) 

- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

- ASAKUKI 500ml Premium Essential Oil Diffuser; $22 (save $4)

- Facebook Portal Smart Video Calling 10 inch Touch Screen Display with Alexa; $129 (save $50)

- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Nintendo

- Legend of Zelda Link's Awakening for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $199 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

- MACTREM LED Ring Light 6" with Tripod Stand; $16 (save $3)

- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

- Amazon Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote; $28 (save $12)

Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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Pretty in Pink: Drone Captures Birds-Eye View of Massive Flamingo Flock in Kazakhstan

MORAN, Unsplash
MORAN, Unsplash

Flamingos sport some of the most eye-catching plumage in the animal kingdom. Their diet of beta-carotene-rich plankton and crustaceans produces a distinctive pink hue that's hard to miss. One flamingo is striking on its own, but the birds are even more impressive as a crowd, as demonstrated by the footage below.

As Fox 13 Tampa Bay reports, Azamat Sarsenbayev used a drone to capture this video of flamingos congregating on Lake Karakol near Aktau, Kazakhstan. A flamingo flock (also called a flamboyance) can contain up to several hundred birds. Flamingos do a lot together, including mating displays. From above, everyday life for a flamingo makes for a breathtaking, candy-colored spectacle.

This footage was taken during the species' migration south. By the end of their journey, the birds will likely be settled in the Khazar nature reserve or even farther south in Iran. After checking out the video, read up on these fascinating facts about flamingos.

[h/t Fox 13]