No, that title doesn’t describe how I feel. (Well, at least most of the time…)
However, this pandemic is bringing out the worst in some people. As I said on social media, COVID-19 is particularly dangerous – it causes stupidity in people without even having to infect them!
A case in point:
‘Murder hornets’ land in the US for the first time
4 May 2020
Even as the US remains under attack from the coronavirus outbreak, a new terror has arrived: “murder hornets”.
The 2-inch (5cm) long Asian giant hornets, Vespa mandarinia, have been found in Washington state.
Multiple stings are deadly to humans and in their “slaughter phase” the hornets destroy honeybees, whose bodies they feed to their young.
Scientists are now on a hunt for the hornets, hoping to eradicate the species before they wipe out US bees.
Although they typically avoid people, in Asia, “murder hornet” stings are thought to cause as many as 50 human fatalities a year, according to the New York Times.
The hornets made their first North American appearance in August 2019, in British Columbia, Canada. Months later, in December 2019, the flying insects were reported south of the border in Washington state.
Washington State University (WSU) are unsure how or when the hornet first arrived in North America, but beekeepers in the region have reported gruesome hive deaths in recent months. Scientists are bracing for further emergence of the species, which begins its life cycle in spring.
The hornets are “shockingly large”, said Todd Murray, a WSU scientist and invasive species specialist. “It’s a health hazard, and more importantly, a significant predator of honeybees.”
The insects, roughly the size of a matchbox, have large yellow-orange heads, prominent black eyes, and a black and yellow striped abdomen.
“They’re like something out of a monster cartoon with this huge yellow-orange face,” said Susan Cobey, a bee breeder with WSU entomology department in a press release.
The Asian giant hornet’s life cycle begins in April, when queens come out of hibernation, and begin to feed and seek out subterranean dens to build their nests. Once their habitats are built in the summer and autumn months, worker hornets are sent to find food.
With their sharp, spiked mandibles, the hornets decapitate honeybees, using the bodies to feed their young. The hornets can destroy a honeybee hive in a matter of hours.
Though beehives are their primary target, when threatened the hornets can attack people. Multiple stings can kill humans, even those who are not allergic.
In Japan, where they are most common, murder hornets kill roughly 30 to 40 people each year.
“It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh,” Vancouver Island beekeeper Conrad Bérubé told the New York Times. He was stung through a bee suit and sweatpants underneath.
The WSU scientists will begin trapping queen murder hornets this spring, aiming to detect and eradicate the species.
Populations of honeybees and other pollinators in the US were already under pressure. Between 1947 and 2017, number of honeybee colonies in the US plummeted from 6 million to 2.5 million. And last year, researchers from the University of Maryland reported that 40% of the country’s honeybee colonies died in a single winter, between October 2018 and April 2019 – the largest loss of its kind.
Pollinators, most often honeybees, are responsible for one of every three bites of food taken in the US, and increase the country’s nation crop values every year by more than $15bn (£12bn), according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The BBC article.
So our journalist – I used to say that the only difference between a journalist and a fiction writer is that a fiction writer might actually have to research their topic – has gone out of their way to shoe-horn the expression “murder hornet” over the generally accepted common name, and to get short quotes from people who are not hornet specialists.
Nor were we helped by the “the corona virus is the product of a bio-weapons lab in China and now they’re sending over mutant hornets” crowd. Only with less accurate spelling. I wonder how these people manage to remember to breathe.
Minds allowed to wander when it’s past bedtime…
If only people were required to pass an intelligence test in order to access the Internet…
In fact, I was so infuriated by this article I went to find where the journalist picked their language. A more in-depth article from the New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/02/us/asian-giant-hornet-washington.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab) had this to say:
Jun-ichi Takahashi, a researcher at Kyoto Sangyo University in Japan, said 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.
The only problem is that Asian giant hornets don’t have the nickname “murder hornet” here. One TV program fishing for ratings back around 2008 used the term “satsujin suzumebachi” (殺人スズメバチ), which could be translated as “murderous hornets”. But that was just one TV network plugging a single series.
So, some hyperbolic language by a small group of people in Japan has been reported out of context in the US and made out to be a general term. But it doesn’t stop there.
Japan Inc.’s image police – and the Government of Japan does in fact spend a considerable amount of money on maintaining a positive image in foreign media sources – have been made aware that something associated with Japan has an unsavoury image and has been dubbed with an unpleasant name.
Bug experts dismiss worry about U.S. ‘murder hornets’ as hype
May 8, 2020
Insect experts say people should calm down about the big bug with the nickname “murder hornet” — unless you are a beekeeper or a honeybee.
The Asian giant hornets found in Washington state that grabbed headlines this week aren’t big killers of humans, although it does happen on rare occasions. But the world’s largest hornets do decapitate entire hives of honeybees, and that crucial food pollinator is already in big trouble.
Numerous bug experts told The Associated Press that what they call hornet “hype” reminds them of the 1970s public scare when Africanized honeybees, nicknamed “killer bees,” started moving north from South America. While these more aggressive bees did make it up to Texas and the Southwest, they didn’t live up to the horror-movie moniker. However, they also do kill people in rare situations.
This time it’s hornets with the homicidal nickname, which bug experts want to ditch.
“They are not ‘murder hornets.’ They are just hornets,” said Washington Agriculture Department entomologist Chris Looney, who is working on the state’s search for these large hornets.
The facts are, experts said, two dead hornets were found in Washington last December, a lone Canadian live nest was found and wiped out last September and no live hornets have yet been seen this year.
Looney has a message for Americans: These hornets are not coming to get you. “The number of people who are stung and have to seek medical attention is incredibly small,” he said in an interview.
While its nickname exaggerates the human health threat, experts said this hornet is especially big — two inches long — so it does carry more and stronger toxin.
“It’s a really nasty sting for humans,” said University of Georgia bee expert Keith Delaplane. “It’s like the Africanized bee … A dozen (stings) you are OK; 100 not so much.”
University of Illinois entomologist May Berenbaum said of the worry: “People are afraid of the wrong thing. The scariest insect out there are mosquitoes. People don’t think twice about them. If anyone’s a murder insect, it would be a mosquito.”
Mosquitoes are responsible for millions of yearly deaths worldwide from malaria, dengue fever and other diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Asian giant hornets at most kill a few dozen people a year and some experts said it’s probably far less.
Hornet, wasp and bee stings kill on average 62 people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Japan, Korea and China, “people have co-existed with this hornet for thousands of years,” said Doug Yanega, senior scientist at the University of California Riverside Entomology Research Museum.
Yet bug experts across the country are getting worried calls from people who wrongly think they saw the Asian hornet.
“This is 99 percent media hype and frankly I’m getting tired of it,” said University of Delaware entomologist Doug Tallamy. “Murder hornet? Please.”
Retired University of Montana bee expert Jerry Bromenshenk said in an email, “One nest, one individual hornet, hopefully, does not make an invasion. … Do we want this hornet — surely not. But the media hype is turbo charged.”
For bees and the people who rely on them for a living this could be yet another massive problem, but it is not one yet.
The number of U.S. honeybees has been dropping for years, with the winter of 2018-19 one of the worst on record. That’s because of problems such as mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food.
The new hornets would be different. If they get into a hive, they tear the heads off worker bees and the hive pretty much dies. Asian honeybees have defenses — they start buzzing, raising the temperature and cook the invading hornet to death — but honeybees in America don’t.
The worry for beekeeping in Washington is based on a worst-case scenario that officials have to take seriously, Looney said.
Yet even for bees, the invasive hornets are far down on the list of real threats, not as big a worry as the parasitic “zombie fly” because more of those have been seen in several states, Berenbaum said.
For people, the hornets are scary because the world is already frightened by coronavirus and our innate fight-or-flight mechanisms are activated, putting people on edge, said risk expert David Ropeik, author of “How Risky Is It, Really?”
“This year is unbelievable in a horrible, horrible way. Why shouldn’t there be murder hornets?” Berenbaum said.
The Japan Times article.
That last throwaway line just undid the rest of the article. Not to mention the journalist’s throwaway use of “bug experts”.
I should also like to remind the Japanese media of the mountain they made out of the fire ant molehill…