In the middle of a global pandemic and a tumultuous election year, news broke that the Asian Giant Hornet, commonly referred to as the “murder hornet,” was found in Washington state in December. Luckily for South Carolina, some experts say the threat portrayed online may be overblown at this point.
“The chances that Asian Giant Hornets are in South Carolina are about zero,” Eric Benson, an entomologist and professor at Clemson University, said in a media release on Wednesday.
Asian Giant Hornets are an invasive species normally found in eastern and southeastern Asia, where they feed on large insects including honey bees and wasps. Multiple stings can kill and their stings can reportedly break through beekeeper suits. This coupled with the knowledge that they kill bees, an insect crucial to the pollination of plants, has led many news outlets to run with the story, but scientists aren’t so sure it’s something to panic about.
“The chances that they will arrive and establish themselves in our state anytime soon are also close to zero,” Benson added. “And even if they do come here one day, we will be fine.”
The Washington State Department of Agriculture is currently prepared to implement a plan to catch and stop murder hornets before they gain a foothold in North America.
“Because it is a ground-nesting hornet that inhabits animal burrows, it is not likely to be transported into South Carolina in commodities, and therefore it is not an immediate threat here,” said Tim Drake, a state entomologist. “Although a single gravid female hornet could start a colony here, the likelihood of the accidental transport of such a female over such a long distance is very low.”
“If you are to be concerned about stinging wasps, it should be about our native yellow jacket species,” said Eric Benson, a Clemson extension entomologist and former professor. “The sheer number of yellow jackets that may attack a person or animal makes them far more dangerous than a hornet.”