Why Murder Hornets Are a Big Deal


Murder hornets arrived on the scene in the United States, and news of their danger swept through the news. Anyone allergic to stings dreaded a run-in with one of these giant hornets that can pack a deadly punch. Although what is said about these hornets is true, it is often overlooked that wasps and hornets are also essential pollinators. Their existence not only helps pollination but also allows it to occur at higher rates by increasing the number of helpers.

So, when someone asks what good hornets are, the answer is that they help pollinate, which in turn helps the ecosystems and food production. However, this does not mean all pollinators get along – giant hornets will attack and destroy honeybee nests without hesitation and are pretty savvy in getting what they want.

Murder Hornets Pose a Significant Threat

One of the greatest threats of murder hornets is that they relentlessly seek out, mark, and overtake honeybee hives, leaving no survivors. American beekeepers are protecting their hives and keeping a watchful eye for hornet activity.

Although some species of honeybees have shown an incredible defense against hornet activity, not all honeybees display the same instinct, and beehives in America are threatened. Unchecked hornet activity leaves beehives and beekeepers vulnerable. Hornets, left to their own devices, see honeybee hives as free food and do not mind leaving a devastating trail of perishing honeybees in their wake.

Murder hornets work in groups to attack honeybee hives. Worker hornets leave the best to find a bee colony. Once the worker hornet sprays a pheromone marking the hive, the scent allows other hornets to identify the location of the targeted hive. Hornets may work individually but have been observed working in larger groups. When thinking about the thousands of bees who work and reside in a honeybee hive, it is hard to imagine fifty hornets taking out an entire population. However, it does happen, and the hornets do it unwaveringly. Within a matter of hours, hornets may wipe out a hive entirely.

Researchers were able to record a hornet killing one bee every 14 seconds!

Surviving the Hornet

Bees, like every other living thing, adapt to survive. The incredible defense honeybees have against hornets is heating them to death. Because, incredibly, honeybees can survive at two degrees hotter than hornets, when they surround a hornet, they create a high enough temperature to overheat and kill the hornet. Asian honeybees make a ball around hornets and work together to protect their queen and hive. It is impressive if you think about it.

Bees can remarkably survive these attacks in some instances, much of which has to do with the region where the honeybees reside. Researchers have identified and witnessed Asian honeybees responding in hundreds to form a barrier around a threatening hornet and heating it to death. Even though bees do not have an advantage over hornets in size, the temperature in the ball of bees becomes a hot oven because they can survive at a slightly higher heat.

Killing a hornet in this organic and natural way takes about an hour, but Asian bees are incredibly responsive and protective. Asian honeybees appear to have coordinated behavior to protect the hive from the threat of a hornet.

Unfortunately, not every honeybee species is equal. Although not every bee colony’s response has been recorded, bees in other regions of the world, including European honeybees, do not display the same tactics. Other honeybees try to protect the hive by stinging. However, due to the hornet’s strong exoskeleton, this is ineffective.

What’s Got Beekeepers Worried About Giant Hornets

The Murder Hornet has not been a welcome visitor in the United States. Beekeepers are working together, exploring innovative ways to trap the hornets and prevent them from taking up permanent residence here. One of the newest approaches is a unique trap to catch a worker hornet before it marks the hive. If there is no scent, hornets cannot find the target. If this measure works, honeybee hives may have some relief from the murder hornet threat.

University entomologists recognize that beekeepers in America must be proactive about preventing hornets from establishing themselves here since there may be hundreds of hives in an apiary that are vulnerable. If hornets penetrate the apiary, the results will be devastating. If you are concerned about your hives or have noticed increased hornet activity near your home or garden, please get in touch with a professional to help. Although hornets are not as welcome of a sight as bees in gardens, they are pollinators. Someone with experience can help mitigate the problem thoughtfully, removing the hornets and protecting the local honeybees.