Are 'murder hornets' a threat to humans and bees?

Published: May. 4, 2020 at 8:00 PM EDT
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An Asian hornet nicknamed the "murder hornet" has been spotted in the U-S for the first time ever. Once the reports hit social media, they created online hysteria.

When Ashley Martin read the reports, she had a conversation about it with her mom.

Martin said, “It has the potential to be deadly to humans. And they just ravage bee nests."

The "murder hornet" is actually known as the Asian Giant Hornet. The insect has reportedly invaded beehives in Washington state, leaving piles of dead, decapitated bees. Beekeeper Will Johnson says this isn’t an uncommon way predators kill bees.

Johnson said, "That's the way they eat the honeybee. I mean, they go up there. They rip the heads off."

However, Johnson says these hornets are nowhere near the threat of other insects.

"We have martins that go in here and eat honeybees. We have dragonflies that go out during the summer and eat honeybees. We have the Carolina Wren. It goes around and eats honeybees. I mean, we have lots of other pests,” said Johnson.

Johnson says their sting is one of worst in their species. Scientists say if stung multiple times, it's true these hornets could potentially kill a human; which is what scared Ashley Martin.

Martin said, "I was kind of freaked out about it, but I think that might have just been because the current time we’re in.”

She says she experienced the pain of a sting as a child. It made her apprehensive about hornets since.

“I was stung by something when I was younger. And that was enough for me to not want to get near them again,” said Martin.

Johnson says as long as you don't have an allergy to the sting, the threat to humans is low.

“If you got into enough of anything, I'm sure that it could kill you, but I wouldn't sweat this,” Johnson said.

He says eastern Carolina shouldn't worry so much.

Johnson: "Yes, it's going to hurt, but can you get through it? More than likely."

These hornets are also know for penetrating beekeeper’s suits. As a man who's been stung a few times in his line of work, Johnson says he'll just throw on a sweatshirt underneath his suit if he has to run into these hornets.

Johnson said, "It's in an isolated part of the country. Eastern North Carolina, we're fine right now; no concerns. And just do your research. We have much worse pests out there that are coming to cause issues for beekeepers. And this giant Asian hornet is not one of our concerns at this moment."

The bee population is still on the decline. Johnson says this is the least of his worries.

Scientists are still figuring out how these giant hornets got to the U.S., but they're most destructive in the late summer and early fall.