OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Over the weekend social media blew up over news that the murder hornet, an insect known for its ability to kill other insects, had arrival to the United States this past fall.
The vespa mandarinia, or the asian giant hornet is considered the largest hornet in the world, tallying nearly two inches in length and has been given the nickname murder hornet.
“It looks very nasty, it looks predatory and can rip the head off of bees,” said Dr. Carol Fassbinder-Orth, a biologist at Creighton who studies bees.
She said the buzz around the nickname is a little sensationalized. “It can decimate entire colonies so the murder aspect comes from the predatory nature towards other insects,” Fassbinder-Orth said.
Though a predator to insects, the hornet’s sting can be lethal to humans. According to Dr. Ted Burk, a biologist at Creighton, dozens die each year after being stung by the hornet. He said in Asia where the hornets normally reside, doctors recommend someone to go to the hospital if they’re stung ten or more times by it.
“They are bad news,” Burk said. “Like any bee there are people who are allergic. One sting could be very bad news.”
Scientists said the hornet plays a crucial role to the ecosystem, but they’re unsure yet what impacts it could have on honeybees in the U.S.
“Honeybees are so important to us agriculturally and it didn’t co-evolve in the same location as European honeybees that we use so there is no defense against it,” Burk said.
While the insect made way to America this past fall, scientists aren’t even sure if they survived the winter. The hornets like low-mountain lands and forests, making them less-likely to swarm across the majority of the Midwest any time soon. However, one city in Nebraska fits the mold to be a hypothetical home to the hornet.
“There are areas, along the river places like the Omaha area, where it could look like the habitat is suitable for them. But out in the plains or Sandhills I don’t think they’d ever be a problem,” Burk said.
Scientists said it’s important to remember that the Asian giant hornet plays a crucial role in the ecosystem and though scary, it’s important that humans don’t try to eradicate them.
Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.