Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Oh hey, there are "murder hornets" now

Let’s all just bee cool, okay? Wait, no, we’re sorry. Oh god, no!
Let’s all just bee cool, okay? Wait, no, we’re sorry. Oh god, no!
Photo: Herve MASCOT/Gamma-Rapho (Getty Images)

God bless The New York Times, which, from its front page, to its Opinion page, to the even crappier parts of its Opinion page, has never shied away from a chance to freak the American people well and truly out. Hence, today, a new report from the Grey Lady, detailing the potential danger of “murder hornets,” which are apparently a thing now.

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Okay, so: Technically they’ve been “a thing” for hundreds of years, actually, given that the “murder hornet” name is just a new, extra-scary title applied to the Japanese giant hornet, a regular bane of Japanese beekeepers. (To be fair, some people are referring to them by their wider taxonomic designation, “murder wasps,” which is a much more comforting image.) They’re scary critters, too: Giant, bright orange hornets capable of injecting huge amounts of what is, reportedly, a very painful venom into predators/prey/people making dumbass YouTube videos where they let bugs sting them for fun and profit.

Now, we have absolutely no evidence—outside an ever-grimmer view of human nature fostered by nigh-constant exposure to the internet—that said clout-chasers are responsible for a few of the hornets being found in the wild in Washington state recently. YouTube-assisted or not, though, it’s definitely a scary notion. Not so much because of concerns about getting stung—although a few people do die to the Japanese giant hornet every year. No, it’s because these things absolutely fuck up the populations of local bees, who’ve already been having a time of it in recent years.

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Here, have some New York Times insect murder porn poetry:

As he pulled his truck up to check on a group of hives near Custer, Wash., in November, he could spot from the window a mess of bee carcasses on the ground. As he looked closer, he saw a pile of dead members of the colony in front of a hive and more carnage inside—thousands and thousands of bees with their heads torn from their bodies and no sign of a culprit…With queens that can grow to two inches long, Asian giant hornets can use mandibles shaped like spiked shark fins to wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young.

Japanese bees have adapted to the hornet’s techniques; they lure “scout hornets” into their hives, then swarm them in a massive ball that sees its internal temperature push past 110 degrees Fahrenheit, essentially cooking and asphyxiating the much larger intruder under the weight of their bodies (Nature: Not fuckin’ around for a billion years and counting.) American/European bees, which have been raised for countless generations to have as few defensive behaviors as possible, have no such tactics at hand.

Meanwhile, it’s impossible to deny the power the phrase “murder hornet” has had on our collective quarantined brains. The internet has already filled up today with Twitter prophets dubbing these things the second of the great plagues descending upon humanity in this, our time of troubles. God help us if some idiot decides to do a cane toad TikTok video and lets those invasive fuckers loose; at this rate, we’ll have hit locusts, darkness, and the deaths of the firstborn by some time in early June.

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