The Asian giant hornet, also known as the "murder hornet", has arrived in the United States. Nearly two inches long, the species is the world's largest wasp and it has been observed in Washington State. Scientists now fear it will spread across the country, posing a danger to humans and potentially decimating the U.S. honey bee population.
That population is already in decline as the following infographic using Department of Agriculture data illustrates. Back in 1968, there were 4.5 million honey producing bee colonies and that declined to just 2.8 million in 2019 (no data was recorded in the period from 1980 to 1985).
The Asian giant hornet is a voracious predator and a large group of them can destroy an entire colony of native honey bees in just 90 minutes. Just one hornet can kill 40 bees per minute. If the spread is not contained, there are serious fears that the invaders will decimate America's pollinators and prove potentially lethal to people.
The insect's sting feels like "a hot nail being driven into your leg", according to one Japanese entomologist while its venom contains pheromones that signal other nearby hornets to come and join in the attack. While a single sting is immensely painful but not lethal, multiple stings can kill. In Japan, 30 to 40 people are killed annually by Asian giant hornets.