They are formally known as Asian giant hornets, but the nickname "murder hornets" is how most people know them. And now that the weather is warming up, entomologists are preparing for battle, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The idea is to "track, trap and eradicate," says the release, with an emphasis on eradicate. “This is not a species we want to tolerate here in the United States,” the department's Sven-Erik Spichiger tells the AP. “The Asian giant hornet is not supposed to be here," and it poses "an absolutely serious danger to our health and well-being." Scientists found and destroyed the first nest in the US last year, in Washington state, and it was filled with budding queens. The hornets, which despite their nickname pose much more of a threat to honeybees than humans, also have been spotted in Canada's British Columbia.
The invasive species originated in Asia and may have traveled to the US in cargo containers, per CNN. So far, they seem to be contained to the Pacific Northwest and Canada, but that could change quickly, with dire consequences. The unusually large hornets can destroy a honeybee hive in a matter of minutes, thus preventing the bees from pollinating crops. They've also been known to kill humans in Asia, though it's rare. Anyone stung, however, will at the least suffer searing pain. Entomologists will start setting traps in the spring, and they encourage "citizen scientists" to do the same with orange juice or brown sugar, particularly in July. A new documentary on Discover Plus called Attack of the Murder Hornets educates about the dangers, though Kate Knibbs at Wired would have preferred a different approach. "Their status as an invasive species is enough of a compelling threat without cloaking them in horror tropes." (Read more murder hornets stories.)