Research indicates murder hornets could spread throughout West Coast


Research from Washington State University shows that Asian giant hornets, the invasive species now more commonly known as “murder hornets” could “spread and find ideal habitat, both in the United States and globally.”

The “murder hornets,” which can kill an entire colony of bees within hours, first appeared in Washington in May. The insects are natives of the forested parts of Asia and can grow to be 2 inches long.

“We found many suitable climates in the U.S. and around the globe,” said lead author Gengping Zhu, a postdoctoral scholar at WSU’s Department of Entomology.

The research was done alongside WSU Department of Agriculture scientist Chris Looney and entomologists David Crowder and Javier Illan. The team studied 200 records of the hornet’s native habitats in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and factored in climate data to protect whether or not the insects could find a global habitat.

“These predictions are scientific sleuthing,” Illan said. “We’re making an educated guess on how fast and far these insects can move, their rate of success in establishing a nest, and offering different scenarios, from least bad to worst. No one has done this before for this species.”

They found that Asian giant hornets are likely to thrive in places with warm summers, mild winters and high rainfall. In their research, places like the North American west and east coasts, much of Europe and New Zealand, parts of South America, Australia and Africa could all have climates suitable for the invasive species.

Scientists predict that if they are not contained, the hornets could spread throughout Washington, Oregon, British Colombia within the next 20 years. They also feared that humans could play a role in accidentally transporting the hornets to other parts of the country.

“Preventing the establishment and spread of Asian giant hornet in western North America is critical for protecting bees and beekeepers,” Crowder said. “Our study can inform strategies to monitor and eradicate these invaders before they become established.”

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