Eric Paulsen

Eric Paulsen

I wanted to be in radio since I was four - and four decades later I still haven't grown out of it...Full Bio


"Murder Hornets"?!? Why you shouldn't freak out like the news and Twitter

We've had a crazy year, from impeachment to Kobe Bryant's helicopter crash to the COVID-19 pandemic and all of its effects on our society and economy. The news, of course, loves to blow everything up as much as possible. They need eyeballs on TV and clicks on social media, and the more sensational they can get, the better.

So when the Asian Giant Hornet - with the juicy, scary nickname "Murder Hornets" - was found in Washington State, the news cycle cranked up coverage and places like Twitter started freaking out.

Is the name worrisome? Yes. Do they look scary? Yes. Is their sting bad and potentially dangerous? Yes. Should you panic? No.

Here's why, since I like offer perspective on these Asian Giant Hornets, also known as Vespa mandarinia, or yak-killer hornets, and, in the media now, "murder hornets":

First of all, this is not a surprise. People who pay attention these things have been expecting their arrival as an invasive species for several years now. They have networks in place to identify and track these hornets, which is how the two - yes, TWO - that have been confirmed were discovered in Washington State the first place. (If you prefer to worry, two more were seen in Washington but were unconfirmed, and two more were spotted in British Columbia, Canada, just to the north - but you still shouldn't freak out.) These same people put together information to educate beekeepers and others on how to identify and trap them, since these hornets are too large for most other bee and hornet traps. The goal is to limit their spread in the Pacific Northwest and prevent them from migrating across the country.

Because, while I'm assuring you that you shouldn't freak out, these Asian Giant Hornets are rough customers. But here's the difference between the wild claims vs. the reasoned-out reality:

Claim: "Their sting can kill you!" Perspective: That's true, if you're allergic. Same with other stinging insects. If you're not allergic, multiple stings can lead to a fatality - just like with other bees, hornets, wasps, scorpions, and many other stinging insects. In Japan, where the Asian Giant Hornet is most prevalent, they kill about 50 people each year. With a total population of 126 million in the country, that means the risk of dying from being stung is 0.00000004%. Given there are only 2 confirmed Giant Asian Hornets in the US, your risk is considerably lower than that.

Claim: "OMG, they can sting through a beekeeper's suit!" Perspective: Yes. So can all wasps and hornets. So can honey bees. This is hardly unique.

Claim: "They murder honey bees!" Perspective: They do, indeed. As do plenty of other hornets and wasps. Plus bears, skunks, even people. Valhalla Organics, which is a key source for me with this piece, notes this: "Honey bees in Japan have demonstrated a defensive behavior against these hornets in which the bees surround the hornet and literally cook it with the heat coming off their bodies. (This is a behavior common among honey bees in response to hornets or wasps trying to rob their hives; however the University of Washington has said honey bees here in the US have not used this behavior defensively against these hornets)."

And another thing: don't confuse other bees, especially honey bees, with these so-called "murder hornets." Let the bees be; they perform CRUCIAL tasks in our environment, from pollenation to making honey. Their influence on the food chain that's so important to us cannot be understated, especially at this time of year when they're helping so many plants and trees - and crops - get what they need to grow properly. And while of course you don't want the bees stinging you either, leave them alone and 99 times out of 100 they'll ignore you. They have work to do.

Find out more here. And don't freak out about the ridiculous "murder hornets."

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