What Happened to the Murder Hornets, Anyway?

Earlier in the year, we saw the internet explode into panic over the “murder hornets” found in Washington State. On top of the global pandemic, we didn’t want to also be dealing with these horrifying hornets, who have one quarter inch stingers and venom that can literally dissolve human flesh.

What was scarier in my mind is that these murder hornets may be detrimental to our bee population. We all know that bees are in danger as it is, and these murder hornets are capable of killing tens of thousands of bees in a matter of hours once they seize a hive.

But there hasn’t been any mention of murder hornets for the last few months. What’s been going on?

It’s been a race against the clock. This image shows entomologist Chris Looney and the “hornet suit” designed to protect him as he scouts out the murder hornet nests. The goal is to wipe out all existing nests before their mating season in the fall.

“This is our window to keep it from establishing. If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.”

Chris Looney

There’s some hope: We’ve discovered a type of trap that seems to work. On July 14, one of the massive hornets was found in a bottle trap, which gives us confirmation that the traps work. These traps consist of a plastic bottle with a small, hornet-sized hole cut into the side and a mixture of rice cooking wine and orange juice poured at the bottom to both attract and drown the hornets.

Once a hornet is captured, they are tagged and then traced back to their colonies, which allows experts the chance to eradicate it.

The existence of more hornets confirms that there’s at least one new colony ever since the news was big earlier in the year, but hopefully the fact that one has been successfully caught means that we’re on the right track to remove them for good.

Scientists in Japan have been helping Americans to learn about these hornets and eradicate them safely. These hornets cause 30-50 human deaths each year in Japan and are detrimental to the local beehives, so their expertise will come in handy as we attack this issue. Believe it or not, some areas of Japan even eat the hornets after drowning them in liquor!

If you live in the Washington area and would like to set up a bottle trap on your property, here’s instructions on how to do it properly. You can also report sightings online here. If you do not live in the Northern quadrant of Washington State, officials ask that you do not participate in the official trapping efforts. Setting a trap means you may catch and kill local insects, including the bees that we’re trying so desperately to protect.

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