Thursday, July 29, 2021

Mass Hysteria: Murder Hornets!

     This summer I am taking an entomology (study of insects) class and recently the topic of the Asian Giant Hornet came up. In the beginning of 2020 hysteria gripped the nation, from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, and the supposed start of World War 3, to the invasion of the so called “Murder Hornet”. At that time it seemed as though the hornet was destined to establish itself as a species we would have to look out for and worry about for the foreseeable future, but the news stories about it died down rather quickly. This made me wonder what happened to them, and recent reports seem to indicate that scientists took care of the problem but are still monitoring the species. But the hysteria surrounding these insects at the time was very real.  

The more correct common name for these creatures is Giant Asian Hornet, and the scientific name is Vespidae mandarinia. The name murder hornet only came about as a result of sensationalism in the media in order to drum up fear among the public. While the sting from one of these insects is extremely painful (as seen in video one), and can result in death, very few people are actually stung by these hornets and even fewer die. In Japan last year, where these hornets are native and abundant, only 30 people are killed by them per year (according to video 1). The hysteria created by the media would suggest that the west coast was being overrun by these hornets and they were killing people left and right, however there were actually zero deaths attributed to the Asian Giant Hornet in the United States last year, and scientists have the outbreak under control. So the moniker “Murder Hornet” is not exactly very fitting of an insect that murdered zero people and was nothing more than a tagline created by the media to indict fear and attention. The hysteria created around the “Murder Hornet” was mostly harmless (aside from it’s contribution to the villainization of insects in America) and made for some very interesting news stories and videos, it even had the positive impact of educating the public about how invasive species can damage the ecosystem and how fascinating insects can be, but it’s basis remains a product of hysteria in the media nonetheless, and reminded me of this class when I it was brought up.

Video 1: Man intentionally stung by hornet- 

Video 2: Nest Eradicated in 2020- 

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