“They are pretty intimidating, even for an inch-and-a-half insect. They are big and loud and I know it would hurt very badly if I get stung. They give me the willies,” Chris Looney, a Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist, told the Guardian.
Looney wore a protective suit as he and colleagues vacuumed the invasive insects from the cavity of a tree in Blaine, Washington — but he said he still feared that they might spit dangerous venom at him.
“I was more worried about getting permanent nerve damage in the eye from the squirted venom than being stung,” Looney said.
But he said he and none of his colleagues were injured while capturing the first nest of the so-called hornets in the nation.
“It was cold so they were docile, so between their slowness and the protective gear no one was hurt,” Looney said.
Looney said despite his nerves about the mission, fears about being attacked by one should be “low on the anxiety meter.”
The bigger threat is to the honey bees, which farmers depend on to pollinate crops, Looney said.
Murder hornets can decimate an entire colony of honeybees within a few hours by decapitating them and feeding their body parts to their young, the Guardian noted.
“We should be concerned about it but we will do our best until the money runs out or the battle is won or lost. If we fail, it will be unpleasant,” Looney said.
He said he fears that the murder hornets could continue to spread throughout the country, creating dozens more nests.
“It’s hard to say how they will behave here compared to their native range, but the fear is that there are large apiaries of bees that could be sitting ducks, while as the hornets move south to warmer weather their colonies could grow larger,” he said. “The object of our work is to avoid finding this out.”
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