Decapitating Invaders!

PEPS professor weighs in on the murder hornet

Decapitating Invaders!

Entomologist and invasive species expert Dan Rubinoff was interviewed by KHON about the scary possibility that the highly aggressive “murder hornet” recently discovered in the Pacific Northwest will make its way to Hawai‘i…and what the effects will be if it does reach our shores.

Dan, a professor in the Department of Plant and Environmental Protection Sciences, described the invasive insect: with a body that’s an inch and a half long and the ability to inject seven times the venom of a honeybee, it is extremely painful to humans it stings.

But far worse is the hornet’s effect on other insects, particularly honeybees. The Asian hornet cuts off the heads of bees and feeds the bodies to its young. Whole hives can be decimated. If murder hornets became established in Hawai‘i, it could critically impact the state’s agriculture. “It’s obviously really economically important for us, in terms of pollination services and honey,” Dan notes.

Potentially, murder hornets could enter our state through Christmas trees. Most trees shipped to Hawai‘i come from the Pacific Northwest, and underfunded agriculture inspectors can inspect only about 10 percent. It is very possible for a murder hornet to slip past the docks. Dan warns, “There’s a lot of trees. If they’re not shaken properly in Oregon, they may bring a murder hornet queen in. And that would be bad news.”

To lessen this possibility, Dan suggests buying a locally grown tree or a fake one. He concludes, “This isn’t a trivial insect to have in your neighborhood. It will make a difference.”