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Would 'murder hornets' move to Utah? The jury is out

By Paul Nelson, KSL Newsradio | Posted - May 5, 2020 at 9:11 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — If you were hoping to frighten people, using the nickname “murder hornets” would be an effective way to do it. The insects have made their way to the shores of Washington, but how worried should we be about them migrating to the Beehive State?

Have you seen these things? The Asian giant hornet, or “murder hornet” is roughly 2 inches long and has pincers on its head designed to rip honey bees apart. They can sting multiple times and can penetrate the protective gear beekeepers wear. Their sting can be fatal to some humans and some news outlets are reporting they can kill mice.

“They fit into everyone’s nightmares,” said University of Utah Entomologist Jack Longino.

So, should we worry about murder hornets moving across the western states and making a home in Utah? Longino has doubts about that. He said the insects seem to thrive in places like Japan and the Pacific Northwest. He said they don’t go high and they don’t go dry.

Longino said, “They like low-elevation, moist places. They don’t extend to very high elevations and mountains.”

He believes the hornets “hitched a ride” on shipping vessels from Asia and could possibly come to this state by getting into shipping containers. If that were to happen, Longino said the hornets would survive a lot better in a city environment that a rural one.

Longino said, “They wouldn’t survive out in the foothills, but it might survive in somebody’s garage.”


They wouldn’t survive out in the foothills, but it might survive in somebody’s garage.

–Jack Longino, University of Utah entomologist


Steven Stanko with the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food agrees that the scientific community hasn’t officially decided if these insects would even want to live in Utah. He said there are certain features of the state the hornets would like, and others they would hate.

Stanko said, “You have lots of forested areas with minimal human disturbance, which would lean us to the ‘at risk’ category. However, most of the state is at relatively high elevation, which may put us at a lower risk.”

If a migration were to happen, Stanko said the hornets would have to establish colonies along the way. So, how long would this process take, worst case scenario?

“It would be at least five years before they could make it to Utah,” Stanko said.

The state of Washington and the federal government are in charge of finding, containing and killing these hornets. Agriculture officials in that state want to know about every single sighting so they can wipe them out. Entomologists say anyone who sees them should call agriculture officials, and should never try to get rid of them by themselves.

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