A species of "murder hornets" from Asia has arrived in the United States, and researchers are looking for ways to eradicate them before their population grows, The New York Times reported.
The hornets were discovered near Custer, Washinton, last November when beekeeper Ted McFall found carcasses of his bees with decapitated heads, the Times reported.
"I couldn't wrap my head around what could have done that," McFall told the news outlet, adding, only later did he suspect the killer was what some researchers call the "murder hornet" — an insect whose queen can be as long as 2 inches.
According to the Times, the hornets utilize their mandibles, which are shaped like spiked shark fins, to decapitate worker bees, clearing hives within hours and feeding honeybee thoraxes to their offspring.
Conrad Bérubé, a beekeeper and entomologist in the town of Nanaimo on Vancouver Island, was assigned to exterminate it there and instead got bit himself.
"It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh," he told the Times.
Jun-ichi Takahashi, a researcher at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan, told the Times the species had earned the "murder hornet" nickname there because its aggressive group attacks can expose victims to doses of toxic venom equivalent to that of a venomous snake; a series of stings can be fatal.
Scientists are reportedly seeking to track the invasive species to prevent further bee colonies from being eradicated while attempting to reduce the murder hornet population, The Hill reported.
Chris Looney, an entomologist at the Washington State Department of Agriculture, told the Times the hornets must be controlled within a short time frame.
"This is our window to keep it from establishing," he told the Times, adding: "If we can't do it in the next couple of years, it probably can't be done."
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