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Potentially fatal 'murder hornet' spreads across the globe

Sky News logo Sky News 05/05/2020

The Asian giant or 'murder' hornet © Other The Asian giant or 'murder' hornet Scientists in the US are preparing to try to eradicate a new, potentially fatal, invader from the east: a huge insect with a lethal sting.

The Asian giant, or 'murder' hornet can grow up to two inches long with a sting that delivers a potent neurotoxin.

The Washington state Department of Agriculture has verified two reports of the insect near the town of Blaine, close to the Canadian border, with two other probable but unconfirmed sightings.

It is not known how or when the hornet - a native of the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia - arrived in the US.

The hornet can sting through most standard beekeeper suits and delivers nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee.

Swarms have been known to kill people in Japan, even those with no allergic reaction, and it is there that the insect earned the grim sobriquet, the 'murder hornet'.

Its main prey are wasps and bees - a huge worry for farmers in the US north west who rely on honey bees to pollinate crops such as apples, blueberries and cherries.

a insect on a branch: The hornet has a potentially lethal sting © Getty The hornet has a potentially lethal sting According to Washington State University, the Asian giant hornet's life cycle begins in April, when queens emerge from hibernation, feed on plant sap and fruit, and look for underground dens to build their nests.

Hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early autumn. Like a marauding army, the giant hornets attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae.

Department of Agriculture scientists are due to start trapping queens, but have had to order specially reinforced PPE suits from China to protect themselves from the hornet's vicious sting.

Gallery: Critically endangered animals (Photos)

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