The internet is buzzing about so-called “murder hornets” after the New York Times detailed an invasion of Asian giant hornets in Washington state, adding another threat to worry about to the already calamitous year.
The description of the devastation these insects caused at a local beehive feels like something out of a novel: thousands of bees laying dead with their heads ripped off — a whole colony decimated. It’s such a problem that the state of Washington is enlisting people to find, report on, and kill these hornets with a “sometimes lethal” sting. A dead one was first spotted in December on a beekeeper’s front porch. More may be seen this spring and into the fall as the queens’ hibernations ended in April.
In case you’re unfamiliar with these murder hornets, here’s exactly what we’re dealing with, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture and Washington State University.
1. Murder hornets are large
Asian giant hornets are the largest species of hornet in the world. They grow to sizes of 1.5 inches to more than 2 inches, which is about the length of two quarters laying side-by-side. For comparison, the much more common European hornet is about half the size, and yellowjacket wasps are around 0.5 inches to 0.75 inches.