Really, 2020? I mean, really?
May 3, 2020 4:09 PM   Subscribe

'Murder hornets' spotted in the US for the first time [CNN]

The hornets, more properly known as the Asian giant hornet, scientifically as Vespa mandarinia, aka the "yak-killer hornet" to its friends (only it's got no friends), and informally as the OH GOD GET IT OFF OF ME, is two inches long and, oh geez, just go to the Wikipedia link if you can stand it. CNN says that "Beekeepers have reported piles of dead bees with their heads ripped off"--I bet that the bee larvae like to tell that story at bee summer camp. An entomologist says, "If you get into them, run away." Ya think?

Patton Oswalt puts things in perspective. [twitter]
posted by Halloween Jack (85 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
I had thought that 2016 was going to take the medal but 2020 is off to a truly smashing start with its run.
posted by hippybear at 4:12 PM on May 3 [21 favorites]


They're still smaller than some cicada killers, btw.
posted by scruss at 4:20 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


We used to have cicada killers in our back yard in Kansas City...

They were terrifyingly large stinging insects.
posted by Windopaene at 4:24 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


But murder hornets can kill a human. Can cicada killers do that?
posted by hippybear at 4:25 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


Patton's brother Matt also weighs in.
posted by vverse23 at 4:26 PM on May 3 [6 favorites]


No cicada killers aren't interested in people. Doesn't make them any less scary to a 7 year old...
posted by Windopaene at 4:28 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


I saw one last year I think! Dead, thankfully. Gonna have to find that picture.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:28 PM on May 3


Doesn't make them any less scary to a 7 year old...

Well, the 7 year old in you doesn't need to know about this hornet that rips heads off of friendly pollinating bees and in a swarm can kill a human, does it?
posted by hippybear at 4:30 PM on May 3


More detail in yesterday's NYT story, which also links this story from 2013, when a wave of giant hornet attacks in China killed 42 people.

NYT also posted an article today about Japanese honeybees' adaptation to a giant hornet attack: they swarm the hornet, raising the temperature around it so much that it cooks to death (there's video). Sadly, European and North American bees have not had a chance to evolve any similarly effective adaptation.
posted by mediareport at 4:32 PM on May 3 [16 favorites]


So, the solution is to just import these microwave bees, and everything will be okay, right?
posted by FJT at 4:37 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna need a flame-thrower.
posted by LindsayIrene at 4:54 PM on May 3 [4 favorites]


PEOPLE TRAPPED INSIDE AFRAID OF THE CORONAVIRUS: Could this year get any worse?

2020: Hold my beer?!
posted by Fizz at 4:56 PM on May 3 [6 favorites]


So like, nobody else finds the timing of this story kinda culturally suspicious? We had years of warnings of Africanized bees, and now we've got deadly Asian hornets, at a moment when anti-China rhetoric has reached a fevered pitch? Literally two of these bugs have been spotted in the US, and the guy who is the focal point of the NYT story isn't sure these were even involved, but now the Paper of Record and the entire American internet is talking about Asian Murder Hornets? Gaaaaaaaah I'm just going back inside for a while.
posted by mittens at 4:58 PM on May 3 [77 favorites]


I agree; surely Manslaughter Hornet would be more accurate.
posted by smoke at 5:04 PM on May 3 [11 favorites]


That’s fine. This is fine.
posted by Young Kullervo at 5:10 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


"...2020 is off to a truly smashing start with its run."

Yesterday, I made the masochistic move of watching the New Year's Eve 2020 ball drop. First of all, the Before Times feels like twenty years ago, second, thousands of people bunched together has you in a social distancing cold sweat, and third, oh, all those sweet, summer children. They have no idea.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:16 PM on May 3 [11 favorites]


You know, the whole Snapture thing doesn't seem as bad somehow.
posted by nubs at 5:33 PM on May 3


That was a perfect missed opportunity for "not half bad", nubs.
posted by notoriety public at 5:36 PM on May 3


Hello from Japan, where these guys are native. They are absolutely larger than any venomous insect has any right to be — imagine a grown man’s thumb with wings. The Japanese name literally translates to “sparrow wasp,” if that gives you any idea of how obviously too big they are.

Anyway uh good luck I guess! If one gets in the room you’re in, turn off the lights and wait for it to fly out the window, generally? They’re pretty bad news overall.
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:45 PM on May 3 [37 favorites]


As mentioned above, cicada killer wasps are almost wholly uninterested in stinging people, which only makes them slightly less terrifying the first time one drops in front of your face, carrying a paralyzed cicada.

That said, these Asian killer hornets can fuck right off.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 5:53 PM on May 3 [4 favorites]


mittens: the guy who is the focal point of the NYT story isn't sure these were even involved, but now the Paper of Record and the entire American internet is talking about Asian Murder Hornets?

"Note - The term "murder hornet" is not the true name of this pest. In the United States, it is most frequently called the Asian giant hornet."

This is the kind of thing that makes me hate the New York Times, because they're so good in some respects, but then they indulge in this nonsense.
posted by sneebler at 5:56 PM on May 3 [9 favorites]


Insects may be able to kill humans, but thankfully cannot murder humans. That would be an awful twist in a so far terrible year.
posted by Elmore at 5:59 PM on May 3 [6 favorites]


they swarm the hornet, raising the temperature around it so much that it cooks to death (there's video)

Oh, so we just have to wait for global warming to kill them off, then.

Anyway, yeah, the Americas have cicada killers and tarantula hawks, which are both roughly the same size, but they're solitary wasps and also just less aggressive in general.
posted by tobascodagama at 6:03 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


To echo DoctorFedora, these things are genuinely terrifying. It's hard to explain, but they are large enough that the sound of their wings as the buzz around is honestly something you can feel, not just hear. Like, in your bones. They aren't something you want to deal with, and if you see a nest, or even a nub of a nest being built, call a professional to deal with it. There was a little nest under construction under the eaves of my next door neighbors house, and we only found out about it because of the two hornets that started buzzing a barbecue we were having.

On the other hand, there are parks near me now with signs warning about the presence of black widow spiders, which seem to have originated (in Japan) from an American air base. The US gives Japan terror spiders, Japan gives the US murder hornets. I feel this is a fair trade.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:08 PM on May 3 [48 favorites]


So like, nobody else finds the timing of this story kinda culturally suspicious?

The timing seems to be related to Washington state making a push a few weeks ago for the public to keep an eye out for the hornets becoming more active in April. I guess they're happy the PR move seems to have worked, even if the NYT went a bit bonkers over the story this time (NYT ran an earlier story back in December but it didn't result in this kind of national play).

Anyway, Washington state's department of agriculture has a size comparison chart, and...yow.
posted by mediareport at 6:21 PM on May 3 [7 favorites]


I read about these yesterday and did that thing where you tell yourself “it’s probably in another part of the US, let’s not panic yet.” That’s exactly what my brain tried to tell me about COVID19. Guess what? Both times I lived more or less in the epicenter.

I’ve probably shared this somewhere on the site before, but my partner’s family’s motto is “it could always be worse” — as an optimist that used to annoy me but you know what? It’s the most fitting motto. Bad things come in threes or more. I gotta start embracing it and not be surprised when I get even more bad news.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:26 PM on May 3 [4 favorites]


I have one question. Will Minnesotan winters kill these dead? There has to be some sort of reward for surviving winter. They probably just hibernate like little murder bears.
posted by misterpatrick at 6:30 PM on May 3 [12 favorites]


I went to wikipedia and read about the sting for you. One sting is not likely to be lethal. That is all you need to know. What I am saying is, don't go read that.
posted by Glinn at 6:34 PM on May 3 [20 favorites]


I'm curious how aggressive toward humans they are in comparison to, say, yellowjackets or paper wasps.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:40 PM on May 3


Curiosity killed the... um...
posted by hippybear at 6:41 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


They say not aggressive unless provoked, but I suspect their definition of "provoked" may differ from mine. Even though they would be correct to assume I'm out to kill them.
posted by witchen at 6:43 PM on May 3 [12 favorites]


Does anybody know the over/under on Chestburster Aliens being a real goddamn thing we need to deal with by October 1st?
Because I got 20 coronunuemploymet moneys on people screaming and releasing goddamn baby aliens out of a hole in their sternums by Burning Man.

This 2020 can eat a bag of dicks made out of hammers.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:08 PM on May 3 [17 favorites]


And I thought Albany Meat Wasps were bad...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:20 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


Is this the "locusts" part of the apocalypse?
posted by sundrop at 7:26 PM on May 3 [4 favorites]


*waves white flag of surrender, gives up and buries self in hole*
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:27 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


No, the locusts part of the apocalypse has been going on in Africa for months now, wave after wave. I think they're on wave 3 now, which is bigger than 1 or 2?

It's pretty awful.
posted by hippybear at 7:30 PM on May 3 [26 favorites]


Murder hornets? Definitely my least favorite type of hornets. I mean, I thought the insurance-fraud hornets were bad, but sheesh...
posted by PlusDistance at 7:33 PM on May 3 [12 favorites]


Ok so never going outside ever again. Cool cool cool cool cool cool.
posted by tzikeh at 7:59 PM on May 3 [17 favorites]


They had these giant hornets they called "frelon" in France that were terrifying (vespa crabro maybe?). Not only because they were out at night, trying to get in your lit up windows. But also because they sounded like a P-51 Mustang in your room. And these asian hornets look even bigger. Yikes.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 8:19 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


From the Wikipedia link
Several companies in Asia and Europe have begun to manufacture dietary supplements and energy drinks which contain synthetic versions of secretions of the larvae of V. mandarinia, which the adult hornets usually consume. The manufacturers of these products make claims that consuming the larval hornet secretions (marketed as "hornet juice") will enhance human endurance because of the effect it has on adult hornets' performance.
Expect to see Hornet Juice on Goop any day soon. Waiting for first murder defense to try “my client was jacked up on Hornet Juice - literally the juice of murder hornets - and is not responsible for their actions”.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 8:26 PM on May 3 [9 favorites]


So like, nobody else finds the timing of this story kinda culturally suspicious?

Yeah... Maybe though we could convince all the white supremacists to go defend the Cascadian fatherland against invading alien murder hornets instead of terrorising state capitals, or something, at least? We could frame the sort of tedious searching that would require as scouting for the enemy?

Ah, who am I kidding; they'd probably get distracted by some conspiracy theory that somehow convinced them to propagate the murder hornets instead, while harassing everyone who lives in the area. Sigh.
posted by eviemath at 8:35 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


I kid you not...the MAGA supporters in my Facebook feed is convinced this story is being released now because the president has beaten back the Corona virus so the media has conspired to have another obstacle to President Trump's reelection.
posted by mmascolino at 8:56 PM on May 3 [9 favorites]


These days there is so much news that it always distracts from some other news.
posted by blue shadows at 9:05 PM on May 3 [2 favorites]


I had to check if that nature guy on Youtube who likes to film himself getting stung by all these different types of bugs has had an encounter with the Asian Giant Hornet.

Sure enough.
posted by eye of newt at 9:10 PM on May 3 [11 favorites]


Thanks for that rabbithole eye of newt...
posted by Windopaene at 9:55 PM on May 3 [1 favorite]


I’m pencilling in “Ice age begins ridiculously (‘Day After Tomorrow’ style)” for June.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:21 PM on May 3 [3 favorites]


What I haven't read is any plans on how to eradicate it. I imagine it's large enough that some sort of tiny electronic homing device could be glued to a captured one to discover the location of a hive.
posted by ShooBoo at 10:26 PM on May 3 [5 favorites]


Me: I can't stand being isolated inside anymore!
NYT: Murder Hornets in America!!
Me: (Turns on Netflix)
posted by double block and bleed at 10:44 PM on May 3 [12 favorites]


Insects may be able to kill humans, but thankfully cannot murder humans.

♬Previously on BrainDead...♩
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 11:39 PM on May 3


As a resident of Arizona, I've come to terms with the existence of killer bees. I've made peace with the tarantula hawk that buzzes around my yard like a tiny attack helicopter from time to time. I've found ways to deal with the fact that my house is apparently a vacation destination for the local scorpion population.

And now I can look forward to the killer bee/murder wasp wars.

Could be worse, I suppose.

I could have thermites.
posted by MrVisible at 11:52 PM on May 3 [8 favorites]


What's the betting that there was a world-class Murder Hornet Response Department in the Obama administration that just two weeks ago was defunded and broken up by Trump ?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:27 AM on May 4 [19 favorites]


I could have thermites.

Are those like fire ants?
posted by The Tensor at 3:25 AM on May 4 [19 favorites]


The article actually has a number of approaches to finding the nests- you can glue a little flag to the hornet and it’ll fly home, and another approach being explored is using infrared cameras to find the nests, since they are so hot.(87 degrees!). Putting a bit of electronics on probably isn’t impossible either, considering how tiny they have made electronics for tracking songbirds.
posted by rockindata at 3:32 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


They say not aggressive unless provoked, but I suspect their definition of "provoked" may differ from mine.

As another Japan-resident, I've never had them act too agressive toward me, but they do seem like general dicks, and also not scared of humans the way most bugs are. They won't move to get out of your way- expecting you to get out of their way instead.

Also a lot of people wear light colored clothes/hats if doing outdoorsy stuff in autumn because it's supposedly their more aggressive season and they don't like dark colors.?.

A couple run-ins with them while living here. First, one flew into my classroom when I was a middle school teacher. Could not control the room at all, kids were screaming and out of their chairs. Before I could even think how to react, a big rugby-player looking teacher just casually walked in, took off his slipper and gave it a big smack. Don't think I would've had the nerve for that move.

Other time, there was a nest of smaller wasps outside our house, and one day a few of them were getting into the house. Wondering why, I checked their nest, all the wasps were flying all over, trying to hide because 2 of those giant assholes were tearing apart their whole nest. Ended up having to spray the whole thing down; not sure if I even got the 2 big ones though.
posted by p3t3 at 3:37 AM on May 4 [16 favorites]


*waves white flag of surrender, gives up and buries self in hole*

Hate to tell you this, but evidently sometimes they make their nests in the ground.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:38 AM on May 4 [9 favorites]


My favorite bit from the wikipedia article:

"Hornets are crushed with wooden sticks with flat heads. Hornets do not counterattack when they are in the bee-hunting phase or the hive-attack phase ("slaughter"), but they aggressively guard a beehive once they kill the defenders and occupy it. The biggest expenditure in this method is time, as the process is inefficient."
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 4:41 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


MetaFilter: the process is inefficient.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:47 AM on May 4 [6 favorites]


Thermites are like termites, but when you light them on fire they'll melt through an engine block.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 4:53 AM on May 4 [17 favorites]


I am now hatching a pitch for a direct-to-streaming horror movie: Murder hornets v. Slaughterbots.

Please note that I have real trouble writing near-future/present day fiction these days because all my most horrible ideas keep coming true.
posted by cstross at 5:15 AM on May 4 [14 favorites]


They won't move to get out of your way- expecting you to get out of their way instead.

Somehow I don't think that will be a problem. *runs away screaming*
posted by randomonium at 5:21 AM on May 4 [5 favorites]


Naomi Wu is having fun with the idea of becoming an anti-murder hornet suit magnate, but the suits seem to require mastering an esoteric style of … Kung Fu
posted by scruss at 5:26 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I wonder whether non-Japanese bees can be trained to overheat giant hornets.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 5:30 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Movie idea => "A Bugs Life 2: Murder Hornet Boogaloo"
posted by ZeusHumms at 5:31 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Will Minnesotan winters kill these dead? There has to be some sort of reward for surviving winter.

Maybe? We ran into these in Korea. Winters there get pretty cold, but I don't think Minnesota cold. Probably Iowa cold. Though their range appears to extend in the southernmost Russia, so...

A Korean coworker told me that the hornets kill a few people each year around Chuseok as humans head out to hillside grave sites, clearing out the past year's vegetation for holiday observances.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 5:33 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I think the deaths in Japan are often similar, i.e. hikers who stumble onto ground nests.
posted by p3t3 at 6:00 AM on May 4


I visited my in-laws in the outskirts of Osaka during the 2014 winter holidays. On January 1, 2015, I woke up to one of these in our room. I got my family out of there, put on a coat and then came back to coax it out of a window. It wasn't a great omen for the new year but from a global perspective every year since has probably been worse.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:00 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


I wonder if their stings can transmit Coronavirus?

Sorry ...
posted by freecellwizard at 8:52 AM on May 4


FYI Coyote gets stung about 11:28 of that 18 minute video, which for some reason I watched all the way through. "Absolute searing pain. Far surpasses the tarantula hawk. Worse than (previous champ) the Bullet Ant" (though he walks that back in the next ep and says Bullet Ant is ultimately worse). He did one final baddie after this one - the (neat bright yellow!) Executioner Wasp (also about 11:28). That one is the very worst sting of all and not in the U.S. yet, hooray!? It is also far less aggressive.
posted by Glinn at 9:12 AM on May 4 [3 favorites]


Anyway, Washington state's department of agriculture has a size comparison chart, and...yow.

a. the size of my screen is clearly not what Washington's state department of agriculture was imagining when they put that together. A 4cm hornet is quite bad enough, thanks; I really didn't need to see it at twice actual size. *shudder*

b. "Download a printable PDF of this image." WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S GOOD AND HOLY WOULD I WANT TO DO THAT?

When I saw the first mentions of murder hornets over the weekend, I assumed the US press had done the same thing the UK press did last month, and mistaken Asian hornets (also bad news for honeybees, but smaller than the classic European hornet we already know and fear) for Asian giant hornets. But no.

You'd think I'd know by now that reading about hornets of any kind is a bad idea for a spheksophobe . *still shuddering*
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 9:15 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Learning as much as I can about wasps is how I cope with my own phobia, so I guess YMMV.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:07 AM on May 4 [4 favorites]


Ha, well, yes, it's useful, it's just the way I'm jumping at shadows for the next half-hour that I don't so much like.

In fairness, the last time I read about hornets, I heard a buzz from outside the (closed) window, looked up, and saw the unmistakable silhouette of a hornet right outside. It seems they can be summoned.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:57 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


Don't want any murder hornets. Please.

Maybe cicada killers, though. I was standing by a road in Arizona one afternoon, trying to hitch a ride, and those goddam cicadas were having scream choral performance, so loud it made my eardrums itch. Let the cicada wasp take a few thousand of them back to her den and lay an egg on them. Yeah. Fine.

Never had a problem with the tarantula hawks. They were cute, wandering about the place looking for spiders, flicking their wings every now and then. We had a lot of brown recluses and their cousins on the property, so it was okay. Nature was abundance that way. Sometimes the tarantula hawk would even find an actual tarantula. That was sad. I liked the tarantulas, but hey, TW's have a family line to consider.

But murder hornets? They bite the heads off honey bees. That's just wrong.
posted by mule98J at 11:00 AM on May 4 [2 favorites]


Please note that I have real trouble writing near-future/present day fiction these days because all my most horrible ideas keep coming true.

Maybe consider switching to fantasy for a while?

...on second thought, no, don't do that.
posted by The Tensor at 11:01 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


> Please note that I have real trouble writing near-future/present day fiction these days because all my most horrible ideas keep coming true.

Would it be too much to ask you to attempt a story where everything becomes suddenly awesome in the near future? You can use this for a foundation and go from there, maybe.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 11:02 AM on May 4 [1 favorite]


I live in the county where these are being spotted, so that's great. The Washington dept of Agriculture wants volunteers to trap the hornets. Their DIY trap instructions warn that trapping the hornets may increase your chances of getting stung (ya think?). The lure mix includes rice wine, to deter regular bees from getting trapped. So I guess the giant hornets like to booze it up? Giant drunk murder hornets. Yep. What else you got, 2020?

I've been low-key scared of these guys since reading about them in that one Oatmeal comic about long distance running.
posted by lovecrafty at 11:25 AM on May 4 [8 favorites]


What I haven't read is any plans on how to eradicate it.

lila westreich @lilawestreich PhD Candidate at @UW & @UW_SEFS, studying native bees in the PNW through genetic analysis of pollen talked to radio station KUOW about eradication.
posted by Mitheral at 3:15 PM on May 4 [1 favorite]


They aren't murder hornets unless they come from the Murder region of France. Otherwise, they're just sparkling assault wasps. Dr. Nick Caruso @PlethodoNick
posted by theora55 at 6:20 PM on May 4 [14 favorites]


I could have thermites.

Or, heaven forfend, Thermians.
posted by sneebler at 7:15 PM on May 4 [3 favorites]


or Theremins!
posted by hippybear at 8:27 PM on May 4 [2 favorites]




2020: The year that every apocalypse was held at bay by the textile arts.
posted by mbrubeck at 8:46 PM on May 4 [10 favorites]


Book the small wins, @mbrubeck.

We got a whole lot of year left in this mothertrucker, and I still have 20 on chestbursters by the time )’( would normally be.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:45 AM on May 5




How are they not named Gom Jabbars; missed opportunity.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on May 6


Sweet Elvis, I was not ready to watch a praying mantis grab a murder hornet and EAT IT ALIVE, FACE FIRST.

And yet, this is what 2020 is serving us, so... here ya go.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:37 PM on May 7


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