Dubiously named 'murder hornet' lands on the West Coast, potentially threatening Bay Area bees

SAN MATEO, Calif. (KGO) -- Oliver Frank has been a beekeeper for 50 years and makes a living tending to 150 private hives around the Bay Area. He is all too familiar with the damage disease and pesticides have played on these pollinators.

"The average bee loss is 40% in the United States. I was affected by them in the mid 90's almost all of my bees died for several years in a row," explains Frank who stands in his San Mateo beekeeping yard, which he's had for more than 40 years.

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But now, there's another threat, spotted in Washington state - The world's largest hornet, hailing from Asia, dubbed the "murder hornet" for it's massive 2-inch size and a sting that kills around 50 people a year in Japan.

The insect's appetite for the honeybee, could also have other dire consequences.

"There's the increased cost to beekeepers and the increased cost to food production," says Frank.

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Invasive species aren't new to California, and scientist say her term "murder hornet" can be detrimental and incite fear.

Dr. Brian Fisher is the curator of entomology at the California Academy of Sciences who finds the hornet "beautiful" for it's color.

"Actually, more people are killed by the honeybee because they're more common and people are allergic to them," he said.

Instead of being fearful, experts say the hornet's dubious nickname should serve to bring awareness and the need for more education.

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"We should be seeing this as a wake up call. We need a system to monitor it and cut it off before it established itself. Just like we weren't prepared for COVID, we weren't prepared for lots of invasive threats in the insect world." says Dr. Fisher.

Oliver will in the meantime will keep an eye on his hives and other's, especially with more people than ever, finding new hobbies while sheltering-in-place.

"There's lot of interest in going back to the land and raising your own food and being self-sufficient and protecting pollinators."
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