There’s a treacherous invader making its way across state lines in the Pacific Northwest. “Murder Hornets,” less dramatically known as the Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, kill up to 50 people every year in Japan, CBS News reports, and are capable of devastating entire beehives in less than a hour.
The hornets are “like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” Susan Cobey, bee breeder with Washington State University’s Department of Entomology, told the WSU Insider.
Truly, these insects pose a threat. The “shockingly large hornet” is a “health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honey bees,” said Todd Murray, WSU Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist. However, bees aren’t completely helpless. There is evidence that some bees can defend their hives against these vicious predators through biological altruism.
They surround the hornets and raise their body temperatures by vibrating. According to IFL Science, Japanese honeybees can tolerate a sweltering 118 degrees Fahrenheit while the giant hornets falter at anything over 115 degrees. The bees effectively cook the hornets to death in their own exoskeletons.
This method of defense isn’t as effective in the face of multiple wasps, especially not for smaller colonies, which has many beekeepers worried.
“We can speculate if the (Asian) hornet becomes well-established, (beekeepers) may have to move to different parts of the state,” Tim Lawrence, director of the Washington State University Island County Extension and a honeybee expert told the Spokesman-Review. “It’s likely the hornets will have more of an impact on the west side of the mountains.”
See for yourself just how honeybees fight back when a murder hornet invades the hive in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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