Just when you think we can’t take any more of nature’s horrors, along comes a creature right out of “Jumanji.”
The Asian giant hornet is the jumbo jet of such insects, and in sufficient number can kill a person and destroy a whole colony of honeybees.
Native to East Asia, it has a toehold in the Pacific Northwest and, through scary press coverage, a grip on our collective psyche. It kills around 50 people a year in Japan, where it lives and is known as “the murder hornet,” according to the New York Times.
It is indeed a fearsome thing, with an orange-yellow head and a fat, striped body. It is almost two inches long – about twice the size of the frightful if quite nonaggressive hornet you are likely to see in an East Coast garden, the European hornet.
Two dead Asian giant hornets were found late last year in and around Blaine, Wash., with other sightings over the Canadian border in British Columbia. Among its weaponry is a set of jaws perfectly designed to snip the head off a honeybee, and when it raids a hive, the heads go flying. Oh, the horror of it all.
Take a deep breath, everyone.
If you put the hysteria aside, the two questions to ask are: Can we prevent the Asian giant hornet from establishing itself in the United States, and, if not, what are the consequences?
One predictable response is that people, panicked but unable to tell a yellowjacket from a bumblebee, will start showering the world with pesticides, or hire a company to do so, and kill beneficial insects in the process.
Samantha Simon, a senior official with the Agriculture Department, welcomes the fact that “people are now more aware of invasive pests,” but said news reports “may have misrepresented the threat the hornet poses to people.”
Beekeepers in giant hornet lands such as China, the world’s…