For the first time, Asian giant hornets have been spotted in the United States, specifically in Washington state, scientists say. Beekeepers have reported piles of dead bees with their heads ripped off, an alarming sight in a country with a rapidly declining bee population.
At more than two inches long, they're the world's largest hornets with a sting that can kill humans if stung multiple times, according to experts at the Washington State University. The giant insects are nicknamed "murder hornets."
"They're like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face," Susan Cobey, a bee breeder at the Washington State University's department of entomology, said recently.
Scientists don't know how these giant hornets native to Asia ended up in Washington state. They can sometimes be transported in international cargo, according to Seth Truscott with WSU's college of agricultural, human and natural resource sciences.
The giant hornet was first spotted in the state in December, and scientists believe it started becoming active again last month, when queens emerge from hibernation to build nests and form colonies.
"Hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early fall, when they are on the hunt for sources of protein to raise next year's queens," Truscott said on the WSU's Insider. "They attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae, while aggressively defending the occupied colony," he added. "Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic."