Uncovering the mystery of ‘Murder Hornets’ – Let our expert help with your coverage and questions

Uncovering the mystery of ‘Murder Hornets’ – Let our expert help with your coverage and questions Uncovering the mystery of ‘Murder Hornets’ – Let our expert help with your coverage and questions

May 6, 20202 min read

Even the most creative of horror movie writers could not have made this up. In the grips of a global pandemic, America is now dealing with a new invader that could pose a serious threat to our honey bees, food production and human lives. 

It looks evil, sinister and acts accordingly. The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) has arrived, and some are wondering what to do next.

Experts are being consulted, and just this week, UC San Diego’s James Nieh was interviewed by multiple media sources looking for answers.

“It comes straight out of Hollywood in terms of what you think an evil alien might look like,” James Nieh, Biological Sciences professor at UC San Diego said. 

Nieh said the invasive hornet species, nicknamed the murder hornet, originated in Asia and is especially troubling for honey bees.

The hornets hunt for food in bee hives, and can wipe out an entire hive in just a few hours — often decapitating the bees in the process. In parts of the European Union, including France and Italy, the related but smaller hornet (Vespa velutina) has also invaded and led to devastating losses for beekeepers. In the southwest of France, some beekeepers have reported losing 30-80% of their colonies. 

“These types of predators are largely generalist, so they are not only looking for honey bees,” Nieh said. “They’ll be looking for bumblebees or anything else they can catch.”

The hornets also pose a threat to humans — their stings are incredibly painful and their venom can lead to deep, necrotic wounds— but researchers say they rarely attack unprovoked. May 04 - CBS News

There are many questions still to be answered:

  • What is next for the west coast?
  • Where next and how far will these hornets spread?
  • What can we do to eradicate them?

There’s a lot more to know – and that’s where UC San Diego can help.

Dr. James Nieh is a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. Nieh’s interests focus on bee communication, cognition, and health. He studies many types of social bees, including honeybees, bumble bees, and stingless bees. Together with his colleagues in China, he has been studying how hornets attack honey bees and how native honey bee species can effectively fight back while the European honey bee, Apis mellifera, remains quite vulnerable. James is available to speak with media regarding the arrival of the Asian Giant Hornet – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.

Connect with:
  • James Nieh
    James Nieh Professor, Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution

    James Nieh’s research focuses on bee communication and bee health.

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