Murder hornets. (Not to be confused with their close relatives: accessory-to-murder hornets, involuntary-manslaughter hornets, justifiable-homicide hornets and turning-state’s-evidence hornets.) Killer hornets. Asian giant hornets. Or the more politically correct Continent Which Must Not Be Named giant hornets.
The invasive insects go by a confusing array of names, but the New York Times, National Geographic, NBC News and other sources are warning Americans about the potential impact of their spread.
A colony of murder hornets can wipe out a honeybee hive in a matter of hours, decapitating the bees and flying away with the thoraxes to feed their young. (“No, I didn’t bring a coloring book and a 32-ounce soda. Eat your bee thoraxes! There are starving hornets in China who would KILL for those thoraxes.”)
Bees can’t catch a break. It’s always pesticides or parasites or SOMETHING. (“I just flew in from L.A. – and boy, are my wings covered with mites! AAIIIIEEEE!”)
I’m taking this latest threat personally, since (a) I enjoy honey on my sopapillas at Mexican restaurants, (b) I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables that have been made possible by the miracle of pollination and (c) my wife’s name (Melissa) means “honeybee” in Greek. (No, she’s not from Greece. She’s from New Jersey, which means she knows where all the thoraxes are buried.)
Bees are not alone in facing physical harm. The murder hornets’ stingers are long enough to penetrate a beekeeping suit. Aggressive group attacks kill up to 50 people a year in Japan (leading to the faddish popularity of the “Muhammad Ali hornet” designation: “Floats like a butterfly, stings like a &%$#@”), but luckily the hornets weren’t spotted in the United States prior to last autumn. This has not stopped the Chinese government from insisting that the killers were maliciously introduced into Asia by frontiersman Davy Crockett. (“It’s right there in the song: He killed him a samurai when he was only three.”)
So far, the hornets have been verified only in Washington state (and across the border in British Columbia). But you and I know this fact won’t stop the immediate proliferation of anecdotal sightings in all 50 states. (“I remember it distinctly. Thing scared me so bad I nearly spilled my sixth margarita! And it looked exactly like my cousin said his podiatrist’s brother-in-law’s love child described it.”)
At least the authorities have succeeded in pretty much debunking that report from Florida — the one about the woman’s grandson being carried around and around in the air by one of the gigantic insects. (“Ma’am, apparently that was the Dumbo ride at Disney World.”)
If we don’t stop this threat quickly, the airwaves will be inundated with entomology nerds doing their “mandible-splaining.” And everyone will be out to make a buck from merchandising: murder hornet tattoos, T-shirts, traps, detectors, etc. (“Get a six-pack of abdomens – left over from harvesting the thoraxes!”)
Scientists hope to use thermal imaging and other advanced tools to stay one step ahead of the menace. The United States Department of Agriculture is brainstorming its own ways to stop the hornets. The prevailing wisdom is to saddle them with a herd of dairy cattle and watch them go broke.
Another tactic is to target the QUEEN. (“Hey, look at what your grandchildren are doing in the tabloids! Yeah, that stinger works really well for hara-kiri, doesn’t it?”)