Murder Hornets: What’s the threat to Tennessee?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The recent spotting of the giant Asian hornet, or the murder hornet as some are calling the species, is stirring concern across the U.S.  

But murder hornet isn’t a term you’ll hear University of Tennessee assistant professor of entomology Jennifer Tsuruda use.   

“So, there will be people if they get stung once can have possibly a fatal reaction, but there are other people who will survive, although they will have probably a pretty sore body part after that,”  

 But the bigger threat, Tsuruda says, is to our honeybee population.    

“These hornets are really good about preying on honey bee colonies and when they get into a colony they will destroy and decimate the colony.”  

She says in Tennessee we shouldn’t panic, as there have only been sightings in Washington and Canada. But Tsuruda and bee keepers agree, their spread could be dangerous.   

“It’s a major part of our food chain,” beekeeper A.C. Mann said. “If we don’t have honeybees, we’re not going to have any green stuff in the produce department for instance. They pollinate cucumbers, squash, just about anything in the produce department is pollinated by honeybees.  

Right now, the more popular thing coming across entomologists’ desks are pictures of look-alike European hornets. And although not as dangerous, people can still have allergic reactions.   

Experts overall advice: give insects their space.   

“They typically aren’t going to be aggressive, what we say more is defensive, unless they’re feeling threatened. So, we don’t want to go chasing after them and making them feel the need to be defensive. And we don’t want to get near their nest either because they’re really going to want to defend their nest.” 

The good news is Canada has been successful in tracking down these hornets’ nests and irradiating them. Something researchers are also working to do here.  

WKRN’s sister station, WATE, contributed to this report

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