Amy Roberts: Murder hornets? Seriously?
Little more than four months ago, many of us gathered with friends and family, clinked champagne glasses, made resolutions, and shared our hopes for a new year. We happily shoved 2019 out the door and ushered in a new decade, one we believed would be exhilarating and revitalizing. We just failed to consider those are also feelings serial killers often describe having when they identify their next victim.
We’re barely four months into the decade and to briefly recap 2020 thus far: Australia was nearly incinerated, the president of the United States was impeached, basketball legend Kobe Bryant died, and a mutating virus spread across the globe forcing schools to close, economies to collapse, and the entire world to essentially shut down as it took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. In the midst of this pandemic, the Pentagon officially released videos confirming the presence of unidentified aerial phenomena. And just in case the potential for an alien invasion wasn’t enough, earlier this week it was confirmed Asian “murder hornets” have made their way to America.
Anyone else just get apocalypse bingo?
Sometimes it feels like we’re on Season 7 of 2020 and now the writers are just making up ridiculous plot twists to keep us all engaged. Either that or god is using an “end of the world” event generator now.
If this year has taught me anything, it’s that my anxiety is utterly useless. I have a unique ability to catastrophize a million different scenarios, and never once did I envision aliens and a terrifyingly cartoonish looking insect that decapitates adult honeybees while it feasts on their young, which also has the ability to kill a human with its sting, coinciding with a global pandemic. Perhaps my anxiety lacks imagination. Or maybe I just need to read more sci-fi.
The Asian giant hornet, vespa mandarinia, earned the nickname “murder hornet” due to its ability to kill people with its venom, even those who are not allergic. If you get stung by one and you don’t die, the pain is described as having hot metal seared into your skin. These flying habanero demons are about two inches long and can sting right through a beekeeper suit, making eradication difficult. In fact, entomologists in Washington state, where the hornets have been confirmed, have had to order special reinforced suits.
The hornets were first suspected last year when a beekeeper in The Evergreen State reported thousands of his honeybees had been killed — their heads ripped from their bodies; all the baby bees stolen from the hive. The murder hornet’s calling card. A few weeks later a dead murder hornet was found a few miles from his property, confirming the hunch. Now, with hornet queens waking up from hibernation, there’s growing concern murder hornet colonies will decimate an already fragile bee population. Which is something those of us who require food to survive ought to be alarmed about.
Bees are the world’s more important and reliable pollinator. It’s estimated bees are responsible for every third bite of food we consume. Roughly 80% of US crops are said to be dependent on bees, and since these little wonders also pollinate clover and alfalfa, which are used to feed cattle, meat and dairy industries rely on bees too. It is not a stretch to say if bee populations were wiped out, our global food supply would collapse.
Bee populations are barely hanging on as it is. Loss of habitat, climate change, and pesticide use have wiped out colonies around the world. Now, bees have to contend with an invasive, decapitating, baby-eating species too.
It’s unclear how these hornets got to the US — they’re indigenous to Japan. There, bees have evolved and formed a defense against this predator, allowing both populations to be kept in check. But American bees have no such defense. Humans are their only hope.
So far, the hornets’ tour of the US has been limited to Washington state. But even if we get lucky and they aren’t planning a trip to the Beehive state, it would still behoove us to preemptively protect our bee populations. Avoiding pesticides, letting dandelions (a favorite food source) grow, and planting native flowers are a good start.
With any luck, helping out our bee friends will keep 2020’s next disaster at bay. Although we might need to prepare for a planet-ending meteor strike just in case.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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Columnist Amy Roberts says schools need a comprehensive plan if they are going to reopen next month. “Because telling kids to ‘avoid getting cooties’ isn’t going to cut it.”