Murder Hornets unlikely to reach Wisconsin

Vespa Mandarina murder hornet<br /><br />Credit: Filippo Turetta/Wikimedia
Vespa Mandarina murder hornet<br /><br />Credit: Filippo Turetta/Wikimedia(WBAY)
Published: May. 7, 2020 at 2:28 PM CDT
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They've arrived in the United States with a scary nickname and they look even scarier.

But according to experts, there's a good chance Wisconsin will never be home to the so-called "murder hornet."

Native to Asia, but recently found in the Pacific Northwest, Asian giant hornets, also known as murder hornets, are about two inches long. They are vicious predators.

"They will attack honeybees and they can destroy thousands of individuals. They basically bite their heads off and then carry their bodies back to feed their babies," says UW-Green Bay Nature Sciences Professor Michael Draney.

With a sting compared to hot metal driving into your skin, the giant hornets kill an estimated 50 people a year in Asia.

But Draney says those numbers need to be put into perspective.

"They're really big hornets, OK, and they have a painful sting, but many, many more people die of honeybees in Japan and China and Asia than murder hornets," says Draney.

While it's unclear how the hornets arrived in Washington State, Draney says they are certainly catching people's attention.

"I've already had some emails from people who think they've seen the Asian giant hornet in Wisconsin, but I'm convinced that they're seeing our own large wasps that live here, which are for the most part harmless," says Draney.

Draney says thanks to the cold winters many of us often gripe about, there's little chance murder hornets will ever call Wisconsin home.

"It's actually not highly likely that they'll ever be established in Wisconsin just based on where they live in Asia. They are not found in the kind of climate that you can find in Asia that's similar to Green Bay," explains Draney.

Good news for us, and local honeybees that pollinate 1 in 3 foods we eat.

"That is certainly a concern if they were to become established in the United States. It's just one more thing that's stressing out honeybees that are already having a lot of problems," says Draney.

University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum said of the worry: "The scariest insect out there are mosquitoes. People don’t think twice about them. If anyone’s a murder insect, it would be a mosquito."

Mosquitoes are responsible for millions of yearly deaths worldwide from malaria, dengue fever and other diseases, according to the World Health Organization.

Hornet, wasp and bee stings kill on average 62 people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2020 WBAY. The Associated Press contributed to this story.