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Could murder hornets come to Michigan?

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Posted at 7:24 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 19:24:13-04

PERRY, Mich. — A dangerous insect with a menacing name is creating a buzz since it was discovered in the U.S.

The Asian giant hornet isn't just known as the "murder hornet" because it can kill people. Just a handful of them can wipe out a hive of 30,000 honeybees in a few hours.

Their arrival is bad news for American honeybees which are already struggling.

"They will actually decapitate them and then they feed their young with those," said beekeeper Lee Rockafellow.

Researchers are trying to figure out how the two-inch long hornets got here from Asia. They've been spotted in Washington state and parts of Canada.

While the intimidating insect can kill humans who are allergic to them, the biggest threat is to honeybees.

"We've lost a lot of colonies and continue to find out why that's happening so a threat like that invasive hornet would be a very hard thing for our honeybees," said Rockafellow.

Honeybees are an essential part of the food chain, pollinating fruit and vegetable crops.

"I'm more concerned about our apple and vegetable growers at this point versus any health risk to people. I wouldn't expect a big impact in terms of human health aside from how it'll affect our food supply," said Howard Russell, entomologist at MSU.

The question is: could murder hornets make it to Michigan?

"All it takes is one mated female to hitch a ride on a truck or an airplane or whatever to show up in Michigan and we could have a population, but whether or not they'd survive or thrive here, I'm not sure at this point," said Russell.

Japanese honeybees have evolved a defense to the hornets. The bees form a ball around them and beat their wings until the heat is enough to kill the hornets.

Authorities in Washington are working to find nests and destroy them before they can reproduce. They're discouraging anyone from getting too close, as their stingers can penetrate even a beekeeper's suit.

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