WASHINGTON STATE — You've probably heard about the so-called "murder hornets."

  • Giant Asian insect found in Washington state
  • Researchers in Florida not concerned murder hornets will be here
  • Insect's stings are painful and can be fatal

The world’s largest hornet, a 2-inch killer dubbed the “Murder Hornet” with an appetite for honey bees, has been found in Washington state, where entomologists were making plans to wipe it out.

The giant Asian insect, with a sting that could be fatal to some people, is just now starting to emerge from winter hibernation.

So, is there any reason for concern in Florida? 

Not really, said University of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab Coordinator Any Vu. 

“It was found in November of 2019 in Washington in a very small area of Washington," Vu said. “They have traps set up currently in Washington to monitor it and it hasn’t been found anywhere else outside of that so to get to Florida would take a very very long time so we’re not too concerned about it coming any time in the near future.”

The 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 fall. Like a marauding army, they attack honey bee hives, killing adult bees and devouring larvae and pupae, according to Washington State University researchers.

Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic, the university said.

Farmers depend on honey bees to pollinate many important northwest crops such as apples, blueberries and cherries. 

The hornet can sting through most beekeeper suits, deliver nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee, and sting multiple times, the department said, adding that it ordered special reinforced suits from China.

The university said it isn’t known how or where the hornets arrived in North America. It normally lives in the forests and low mountains of eastern and southeast Asia and feeds on large insects, including wasps and bees. It was dubbed the “Murder Hornet” in Japan, where it is known to kill people.

“We’re not quite sure if they’re able to fight against Asian giant hornets," Vu said of regular honey bees. "So that’s the primary concern with it.”

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.