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Researchers Could Attract Murder Hornets to Their Deaths With Sex

The stings of the Asian giant hornet, which preys on bees, are excruciating for humans. The hornets are native to Asia, but they’ve only recently arrived in the United States; they were first discovered in Washington State in August 2020. They’ve since expanded across the American northwest. This invasion is concerning because hornets may quickly decimate a honeybee hive.

Entomologists recently captured a group of virgin giant hornet queens and their drones from a colony in Yunnan, China. Six of the queens’ sex glands were swabbed, and pheromone components were identified using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. The findings of the Researchers were published in Current Biology today.

Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornet species, with a wingspan of up to 3 inches and a length of up to 2 inches. Their abdomens are orange and black striped. So far, their spread in North America has been limited to British Columbia and Washington State, but Researchers believe that unless action is taken quickly, the insects will continue to spread. Entomologists are currently attempting to control the hornet population by personally eliminating their nests. However, discovering the nests is complex, and employing pheromone traps would result in the insects being executed by themselves.

Hornets are known for decapitating bees and carrying their thoraxes home as nourishment for their larvae. The bees create a sound that Researchers say is similar to screaming when they are attacked. The team identified the main pheromone components: hexanoic acid, octanoic acid, and decanoic acid. Hexanoic acid has a fatty, cheesy, sometimes urinous odor; octanoic acid has a slightly rancid smell found naturally in some animal milk, and decanoic acid has a similarly pungent scent is used in some fruit flavorings. The murder hornet drones go wild for this chemical cocktail.

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