It's the largest hornet in the world and one of the most invasive species threatening American crops today. Now, scientists in California claim they know how the Asian giant hornet, also known as the 'murder hornet', can be stopped dead in its tracks, according to The Daily Mail.
The researchers say the deadly species (Vespa mandarinia) leaves secreted chemicals called 'pheromones' on surfaces during its attempts to attract a mate. These pheromones can be tracked as part of efforts to bait and trap the insect, known for its painful and toxic sting that can kill humans through kidney failure.
The Asian giant hornet is most common in Japan, although it's also found in China, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries. It also has an expanding footprint in North America, where it's considered 'invasive' – although experts can't say for sure how it arrived there.
The species threatens North American bee populations and millions of dollars worth of crops. Thankfully, it's not present in Europe – yet. The new study has been led by Professor James Nieh, a bee researcher at the University of California San Diego, and published recently in the journal Current Biology.
“The Asian giant hornets don’t belong in North America and harm our critical bee populations, so we should remove them,” he said.
The fearsome Asian giant hornet is known for its size – queens can reach lengths of more than 2 inches (5cm), while males and the female workers are smaller (1.3 inch to 1.5 inch). Scientists are not clear how the species first came to North America, although it's thought they were unintentionally shipped over somehow.
In recent years, it's has been seen in British Columbia and Washington state, while modeling simulations indicate the insects could rapidly spread throughout the eastern US.
To learn more about the Asian giant hornet's chemical signature, Professor Nieh and his colleagues placed traps near the species' nests in the Western US. They captured only male hornets, but no females.
During their experiments the scientists tested the hornet's neural activity and found that male antennae were highly sensitive to pheromones released by females.
“The males are drawn to the odors of the females since they typically mate with them near their nests,” said study author Professor Nieh.