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]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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A Wily Fox With a Passion for Fashion Stole More Than 100 Shoes From a Berlin Neighborhood

The smirk.
The smirk.
Brett Jordan, Unsplash

In Berlin, Germany, a fox has embarked on a crime spree that puts Dora the Explorer’s Swiper completely to shame.

CNN-News18 reports that residents of Zehlendorf, a locality in southeastern Berlin, spent weeks scratching their heads as shoes continued to disappear from their stoops and patios overnight. After posting about the mystery on a neighborhood watch site and reading accounts from various bewildered barefooters, a local named Christian Meyer began to think the thief might be a fox.

He was right. Meyer caught sight of the roguish robber with a mouthful of flip-flop and followed him to a field, where he found more than 100 stolen shoes. The fox appears to have an affinity for Crocs, but the cache also contained sandals, sneakers, a pair of rubber boots, and one black ballet flat, among other footwear. Unfortunately, according to BBC News, Meyer’s own vanished running shoe was nowhere to be seen.

Foxes are known for their playfulness, and it’s not uncommon for one to trot off with an item left unattended in a yard. Birmingham & Black Country Wildlife explains that foxes are drawn to “things that smell good,” which, to a fox, includes dog toys, balls, gardening gloves, and worn shoes. And if your former cat’s backyard gravesite is suddenly empty one day, you can probably blame a fox for that, too; they bury their own food to eat later, so a deceased pet is basically a free meal.

The fate of Zehlendorf’s furriest burglar remains unclear, but The Cut’s Amanda Arnold has a radical idea: that the residents simply let the fox keep what is obviously a well-curated collection.

[h/t CNN-News18]