Just when we thought the murder hornet scourge had died down, leaving 2020 to come up with some alternate terror, scientists are now predicting that the giant, bee-killing bugs could potentially spread “rapidly” if not contained.
“This could be, if it were to become established, one of the most damaging invasive species that we could almost imagine,” said Washington State University entomologist David Crowder. He helped author the stinging study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Indeed, while the Asian hornet — the largest of its kind at up to 2 inches long — has so far only been spotted in Washington state, it has the potential to establish a foothold in the western US, reports Washington State University.
The team formulated this terrifying theory by analyzing more than 200 records from the insect’s native range in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. They then used climate data to determine its likely ideal habitat across six continents in a process dubbed “scientific sleuthing.”
“We’re making an educated guess on how fast and far these insects can move, their rate of success in establishing a nest, and offering different scenarios, from least bad to worst,” Javier Illan, WSU entomologist and study author, said of the method. “No one has done this before for this species.”
Through the educated guesswork, the researchers found that hornets are most likely to thrive in temperate regions with warm summers, mild winters and high rainfall with a maximum temp of 102 degrees. Unfortunately, this climate exists throughout both the US East and West coasts, adjacent regions of Canada, large parts of Europe, northwestern and southeastern South America, eastern Australia, most of New Zealand and central regions of Africa.
The hornets may not be winging their way Down Under anytime soon. However, scientists predict that their 68 mph flight speed will allow them to colonize parts of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia within 20 years, per the predictions.
This would prove devastating to local bee populations, as just one hornet can decimate 40 bees in under a minute. And unlike native Japanese bee populations (which evolved an ingenious method of deterring hornet attacks), the US’ European bees have no natural defenses against the invaders.
“Preventing the establishment and spread of Asian giant hornets in western North America is critical for protecting bees and beekeepers,” said Crowder.
Not only that, but Asian hornets have even been known to kill people using their sting alone, which can dissolve human flesh.