People often ask me — from a safe distance of six feet away — “Scott, during your post-apocalyptic yard work, have you run across any of those murder hornets that have captured the public’s attention during these uncertain times?”
Usually, I have to ask them to repeat the question because their masks muffle the words, but on the third or fourth try, I understand and yell back, “Not yet.”
That’s a bit of an exaggeration in these uncertain times, but several readers did send me links to stories about the discovery of murder hornets in the U.S., including one that said, “I thought about you when I read this.” That makes me think the person wants a hornet to murder me. I’ve developed a tad of paranoia during these uncertain times.
According to various published reports, including The Associated Press, the source I turn to for stories about lethal insects, the world’s largest hornet has been found in Washington state, and hornet wranglers are hoping to wipe it out before it damages the honey bee population.
“It’s a shockingly large hornet,” Todd Murray, a WSU Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist told AP while looking nervously into the sky. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honey bees.”
I added that part about him looking nervously into the sky, but if he didn’t, he should have.
As the interim senior entomology correspondent for this award-winning publication, I aim to answer some common questions and clear up a few misconceptions about the appearance of the murder hornet on U.S. soil (or air).
What are my qualifications, you may ask if you are still reading at this point? I survived the 1970s killer bees scare and watched all the movies that resulted from it — “The Swarm, “The Savage Bees,” “Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare,” etc.
Let’s start the Q&A.
Q: Scott, are these things really called murder hornets?
Answer: They are commonly known as Asian Giant Hornets, but that sounds vaguely racist and a tad boring so we in the media would rather refer to them as murder hornets because it’s attention-getting. Who doesn’t want to read a story about murder hornets?
Q: I read on the internet that murder hornets can be up to six feet long and one of them picked up a little boy in a city park and flew up to the top of the Space Needle in Seattle and an elite squad of hornet-fighting commandos rappelled from a helicopter and saved him before blowing up the murder hornet with a FIM-92 Stinger shoulder-fired missile. Is this true?
Answer: Murder hornets are the largest of their kind, but at their biggest they are about two-inches in length. The scenario you described is part of my screenplay for a movie I am pitching to Netflix, “Murder Hornet: Stinger of Death.”
Q. Now that murder hornets have invaded the U.S., will we see an influx of similar insects that violate the penal code, such as arson ants, kidnapping katydids and drug-dealing dung beetles?
Answer: That remains to be seen. But rest assured, if it does happen, we in the media will be the first to let you know during these uncertain times.