UH insect & invasive species expert concerned “Murder Hornet” could arrive in Hawaii

Local News

Professor Daniel Rubinoff hints that the Asian Giant Hornet is nicknamed the “Murder Hornet” for a reason.

“They’re shockingly big and brightly colored so there’s no mistaking them. They are the largest hornet in the world,” Rubinoff said.

Professor Rubinoff has seen the insects live in action while destroying a beehive in China. With an inch-and-a-half long body, Murder Hornets stingers have even been found to pierce beekeeper suits.

“The Murder Hornet injects seven times as much venom when it stings you than a honey bee so it’s going to hurt a lot more than what people are used to from stinging insects,” Rubinoff said.

“They’re really aggressive so that part is unfortunate for us and other parts of the world where they aren’t native but may be spreading like the Pacific Northwest.”

The Murder Hornet has made a killing in headlines recently in the United States after a New York Times article reported their recent introduction to the Pacific Northwestern US and Canada. A concerning development for Hawaii.

“If they’re there I hate to say but it may be a matter of time before they reach places like Hawaii,” Rubinoff theorized.

One way they could make their way to Hawaii is via Christmas trees. According to the state, about 180,000 Christmas trees are imported annually, with the majority coming from the Pacific Northwest.

“Fortunately our ability and cooperation with the Pacific Northwest states has improved so quarantine is better,” Rubinoff said.

“The chance of a hornet coming in is lower than before. Even so, our state workers are only funded to do about 10% of the Christmas trees coming in. So there’s a lot of trees that if they’re not shaken properly in Oregon may bring a Murder Hornet queen in and that would be bad news.”

With the insects spread to Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, up to China and Southern Russia, they are adaptable to many climates seen in Hawaii.

“That might not mean Waikiki but it probably does mean upcountry areas where we have hornets already, Yellowjackets. But this would be a much worse one,” Rubinoff said.

They get their name from invading bee hives and decapitating bees. They feed their young with the spoils. Bees in Asia have developed counter attacks to deter the Murder Hornets, but bee populations in Hawaii, which provide honey and agrictultural pollination, would be defenseless.

“It’s obviously really economically important for us in terms of pollination services and honey but really the pollination services is their main benefit to us in general to agriculture,” Rubinoff said.

“In Hawaii, honey is a really big deal as well of course, but on the mainland where we ship the bees to and from Hawaii they’re looking for pollination services as well so this could impact that. It’s just another hole in the wall that we’ve got varroa mite and diseases coming in and this is just another one that they don’t need. Honey bees don’t need this.”

Rubinoff recommends getting your Christmas tree from a locally grown source or purchasing a synthetic tree this holiday season.

“This isn’t a trivial insect to have in your neighborhood. It will make a difference.”

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