The so-called "killer wasps" are the Asian giant wasps, scientifically named Vespa mandarinia. They received the nickname of killers because, if a person receives several stings, even if they are not allergic, they can die due to kidney failure.
Although they were native to Asia, in December 2019 some of these wasps were seen in the United States, leaving the affected population, causing an alert in entomologists (biologists who study insects) and also in beekeepers (bee keepers), since these wasps decapitate bees
The danger posed by killer wasps
The big concern about bees is that, in a matter of hours, killer wasps can decimate entire hives. As everyone knows, there is a worldwide concern for the preservation of bees, which are essential insects for human life. In addition to the production of honey, they are responsible for the pollination of various types of fruits.
In the case of people, the concern is the danger of an attack, since several stings of this wasp can kill. According to biologist Jenni Cena of the Washington State Department of Agriculture in Japan, between 30 and 50 people die each year from multiple wasp stings.
Another problem is that not even beekeepers, with their special suits, can protect themselves from wasps. Its stinger is long and strong enough to pierce the suit and cause a very painful sting.
Like other animals, Asian giant wasps only attack when provoked or feel threatened. However, it may be that a person approaches a nest or a wasp without knowing it, because they cannot see and ends up being attacked.
What are the authorities doing?
Realizing the existence of a threat, authorities in the region where the wasps were first seen are already taking action. Researchers and beekeepers meet to try to find the nests, which are underground, with the intention of decimating them and avoiding a possible plague.
Additionally, residents are cautioned not to attempt to kill these wasps on their own, due to the danger they pose. If you see any of them or a nest, it is necessary to contact local authorities, be it the police or epidemiology.
In addition, if possible, it is important to take photos, from a safe place, so that the authorities are sure that it is really the wasp in question. They are often mistaken for another species, so it is important to identify them first.
If you find them, run and call us! It's really important for us to know every time they are observed, if we want to wait for eradication, "said Chris Looney, also from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, in an interview with the BBC.
How did the wasps get to the mainland?
Research on killer wasps in the United States is still in its infancy, so almost nothing is known about how they might have reached the continent.
According to Jenni Cena, they were initially detected in the Canadian province of British Columbia, which borders Washington state, in August last year. There is the possibility that they arrive on cargo ships.
After that, it was the beekeepers who began to report cases of several of their bees decapitated. Wasps are 3 times larger than bees, so it gives them an advantage by invading hives to kill bees and eat larvae and pupae (stage between larvae and adult bee).
In Asia, which is the natural habitat of these wasps, bees have already developed defense mechanisms. But American bees are not prepared to defend themselves, taking a serious risk.
By Priscilla Riscarolli. Article in Portuguese