Researchers ID Sex Pheromone of Invasive Giant Hornet
Chemicals used as bait to trap and track so-called ‘murder hornets’ as they expand their footprint in the Western United States
The world’s largest hornet has been the focus of extensive news coverage of late due to its menacing appearance and expanding footprint in North America.
But while the “murder hornet” label attached to the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) may be an overdramatization of its danger, researchers agree that the invasive species is destructive and threatens North American bee populations and millions of dollars in crop production. Because honey bees offer few defenses, giant hornets can rapidly destroy entire bee colonies.
“My usual plea is that people should stop calling them ‘murder hornets’ because they are large and perhaps frightening but not truly murderous. They are amazing social insects, but they don’t belong in North America and harm our critical bee populations, so we should remove them.” - James Nieh, UC San Diego Division of Biological Sciences Professor and bee researcher
But how to eliminate them is not clear. Even knowing where they occur—thus far reported in Canada and the Pacific Northwest—has been difficult to determine.
As one possible solution, Nieh and his colleagues in China have developed a method for identifying the Asian giant hornet’s presence and possibly accelerating its removal. In the journal Current Biology, the researchers reveal the identification of three major components of the Asian giant hornet queen’s sex pheromone, an achievement that could be used as bait to trap and track the insects. Using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, along with experiments spanning two years, Nieh and his colleagues identified the major chemicals in the sex pheromone as hexanoic acid, octanoic acid and decanoic acid, compounds that can be readily purchased and deployed immediately in the field.
The full news release surrounding this latest research is available below.
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 honey bees, bumble bees and stingless bees.
Nieh's latest research has been featured in national and international media outlets like CNN:
James is available to speak with media regarding this topic – simply click on his icon to arrange an interview.