So-called "murder hornets"—with their spiked mandibles and venomous stingers—are not visitors you want to have around. And yet, they're here. The New York Times reports that two Asian giant hornets have been spotted in northwest Washington State and a full hive across the border in British Columbia. Now scientists are trying to hunt down the two-inch-long insects that kill up to 50 people annually in Japan, and decimate entire bee hives by beheading the bees and flying off with their thoraxes to feed the hornets' young. "This is our window to keep it from establishing," says a Washington State entomologist. "If we can't do it in the next couple of years, it probably can't be done." But it's not a job most people would want.
Entomologist and beekeeper Conrad Bérubé says he tried to exterminate a hive on Vancouver Island last year. Wearing a bee suit and thick sweatpants, he inadvertently roused the hive before spraying it with carbon dioxide—and the stings, some of which drew blood, went right through his protective clothing. "It was like having red-hot thumbtacks being driven into my flesh," he says. A video by YouTuber Coyote Peterson gives a similarly painful account, and this Bellingham Herald image shows just how big they are. Yet scientists' main goal is to save bees, with people a close second: "They are sworn enemies of honey bees," an entomologist told the Times last year. "I would say a bee's worst nightmare. Probably the worst nightmare of a lot of people, too." (Read more insects stories.)