Lawmakers weigh methods to battle Asian 'murder hornets' found in US

Lawmakers weigh methods to battle Asian 'murder hornets' found in US
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Lawmakers are pushing ahead with legislation that seeks to halt the spread of murder hornets that have recently arrived in the U.S.

The hornets, whose queen can grow up to 2 inches long, arrived in the U.S. from Asia and pose a grave risk to the native bee populations they feed on. 

The legislation from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) would set aside $4 million a year for the next four years in grant funding for states. 

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“In case the headline ‘murder hornets’ didn’t make it obvious: nature is sending us a message, and it’s time we listened and make some changes,” Grijalva said at a hearing for the bill, which he introduced in May“We are learning, painfully and repeatedly, that we cannot ignore the natural world."

Initial sightings of the insect were in Washington state, but entomologists have pushed for a more robust system to stop its spread to neighboring states.

“For programs like this to be successful, we want to be sure that we are having workers on the ground to conduct the surveillance that's necessary to find out if in fact we have more than just these three reported findings,” Michelle Samuel-Foo, an assistant professor of biology at Alabama State University, said at the hearing.

Samuel-Foo is particularly concerned about the risks the insects pose to bees, which have seen populations decline due to colony collapse disorder, climate change and pesticide use. 

Bees pollinate a third of U.S. crops, an important part of the food supply chain that contributes an estimated $15 billion in value to the agriculture industry.

“We need to be able to do whatever we can do to control this potential threat from the Asian giant hornet as early as possible,” she said. 

The hornets also pose a risk to humans, and in Japan they have killed up to 50 people a year.

Victims have described the sting, which can break through beekeeper suits, as feeling like hot metal being driven through the skin.