Remember getting bug eyed about the May headline “Murder Hornets in U.S.”?
Although these insects with the deadly appellation were shooed away by the big stories related to COVID-19 and the national racial justice demonstrations, somewhere in the back of our minds we keep thinking, “But what about those horrible bugs?”
And while the hornets may or not live up to the buzz they generated several weeks back there is another flying pest that deserves a wallop of attention.
But scary things first.
Murder Hornet is the nickname for the Asian giant hornet.
The giant part comes from the unpleasant fact that the queens can grow to be up to two inches.
The murder part is that they have spike-like mandibles used to kill bees by decapitating them and bringing the rest of the body home to feed their babies.
Since they are attracted to the already beleaguered but agriculturally vital U.S. honeybees, the spotting of the hornets in the state of Washington rightfully set off an alarm.
So what’s the story?
“We do not expect them on the East Coast,” says Dina M. Fonseca, director of the Center for Vector Biology and professor in the Department of Entomology in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers-New Brunswick in a press statement.
“We do not know how the species arrived in the United States, but it is important to not overreact,” add the writers.
The Rutgers information says the Washington State University report confirmed the first U.S. sighting of Asian giant hornets attacking honeybee colonies in rural Washington State.
Two other specimens had been detected in Nanaimo and White Rock, British Columbia, Canada, in fall, 2019. Another was found in 2020.
So where does all this leave us?
“The Asian giant hornet is unlikely to be present in New Jersey,” Fonseca says. “While citizens in the Pacific Northwest can help detect any emerging hornets this spring, which is critical for its control, the indiscriminate killing of bees, wasps, or other hornet lookalikes, would be detrimental because of beneficial roles these insects provide as plant pollinators and predators of agricultural pests.”
One of the problems of detecting this invasive hornet is that it looks similar to others, especially the Cicada killer wasps found throughout the U.S.
With major portions of the United States subject to extreme heat and cold, etymologists say the hornets may not be able to adapt.
But if they did, U.S. beekeepers can follow Asian practices that involve protecting hives with wire netting.
Then the honeybees may be able to protect themselves by surrounding an intruder, raising their temperatures, and heating the hornet to death.
However, there may be a beneficial side. As some reports show the hornets can remove other insect crop pests and be an ingredient in food and even liquor.
But there is no beneficial side to another bug that is already in New Jersey, the spotted lanternfly.
Its cute name disguises its true danger.
As Jillian Stark, senior land steward for Mercer County Parks, say in a recent statement, the colorful planthopper is “recognized as a significant threat to the natural environment as well as the economy.”
That’s because “the spotted lanternfly, originally from East Asia, feeds on plant sap and when in high numbers, can cause significant damage and death to these plants. Over 70 species of plants have been identified as food sources of the spotted lanternfly, including important forestry and agricultural crops.”
Stark says that June is when the spotted lanternfly eggs that survived the winter hatch and the insect’s first life phase, or “instar,” emerges. “These nymphs are black with white spots, approximately one-quarter inch long. Each individual will molt four times, becoming slightly larger each time — the fourth instar is red with black and white spots, and about three-quarters inch long. The final adult phase in which they can fly begins appearing in July.”
She says the community can help by staying vigilant. “If you find egg masses on trees, scrape them off, double bag them, and throw them away. You can also place the eggs in alcohol, bleach, or hand sanitizer to ensure they are no longer viable. For nymphs and adults, terminating them is the best option (a rock or your foot is recommended).”
She says that Mercer County is in a mandated quarantine area, and citizens have to be especially mindful when traveling around and out of the region. “These insects are great hitchhikers and can catch a ride in any life phase. They can be found on vehicles, firewood, landscaping supplies, packing materials, RVs, and many more items. Businesses and government agencies must obtain a permit to move vehicles or goods in and out of the quarantine zone.”
She also suggests that people review a checklist when moving vehicles or items out of the county. It can be found at www.nj.gov.
So while the news on the bugs may have flown out of sight, the word is to keep vigilant and chirp up if any of the above insects makes a local landing. But most of all, don’t get buggy.