A species of giant “murder hornets” have been spotted in the United States, prompting scientists to begin a massive search to put an end to their rise.

What’s happening:

  • The deadly Asian giant hornets have been known to kill bee populations. In Japan, the bees can kill up to 50 people a year. Now, the bees have arrived in the United States, according to The New York Times.
  • The bees “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,” according to The New York Times.
  • The hornets can also use their venom and stingers to “make for an excruciating combination that victims have likened to hot metal driving into their skin,” The New York Times reports.
  • The bees can kill humans with multiple stings, CNN reports.

Why it matters:

  • Scientists hope to end the rise of the population in the U.S. before it ends the bee population in the U.S. and establishes a presence here.
  • “This is our window to keep it from establishing. If we can’t do it in the next couple of years, it probably can’t be done.” — Chris Looney, an entomologist at the Washington State University’s Department of Agriculture.

How did they arrive in the U.S.?

  • The bees ended up in Washington state. The bees are sometimes added to international cargo, and sometimes that’s on purpose, according to CNN.
  • The bees arrived in December. And the hornets began to become more active throughout the last month.
  • Seth Truscott with WSU’s college of agricultural, human and natural resource sciences told WSU Insider: “Hornets are most destructive in the late summer and early fall, when they are on the hunt for sources of protein to raise next year’s queens.”
  • “They attack honey beehives, killing adult bees and devouring bee larvae and pupae, while aggressively defending the occupied colony,” he added. “Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic.”