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Corona Diaries: as if a deadly virus isn’t enough…

May 10, 2020
Vesper Mandarinia. Pic, Gary Alpert, Wikipedia

A new threat seems to have reared its ugly head. I’m now quivering with terror at the prospect of being cornered by a swarm of savage hornets from, you guessed it, Asia. What did we do to Asia to deserve this? Lots, as it happens, but we won’t go into that right now.

Just as the virus has caught us in a pincer movement, going west across Europe to the UK, the other way to America and then all over the place, it seems that the Asian Giant Hornet, now known to the world as the murder hornet because of it’s liking for decapitating and then devouring bees, is following the same path.

One of these delightful creatures showed up on the south coast of Britain last year, and now it seems that it’s arrived on the Pacific coast of the US. It took the American genius for hyperbole for it to acquire its colourful new name. So now President Trump now has another reason to blame China for something. If it’s Asia, it must be China, right?

Blame or otherwise, he would be right to be worried. After all, the murder hornet is a threat to European and American honey bee species. If we lose the bees, crops go unpollinated and we starve. No matter that the bees are already in serious decline because they’re being killed by pesticides, this could be the coup de grace.

Aside from the danger to bees, their stings are so venomous that if we get stung enough times, we can die.

So how long do we have to wait before the conspiracy theories start going viral? It’s been genetically modified in a lab somewhere in China and sent to the West to weaken our economies and put us further in thrall to President Xi. And how long before that theory comes to the attention of President Trump, who casually airs it in a press conference?

Yes, the murder hornet is a nasty piece of work. But before Mr Trump goes to DEFCON 1 and aims his nukes at Beijing, he should understand that he’s going to have to nuke most of the countries in South-East Asia in the process. It’s all over the region. We’ve seen them in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Like other species of wasp, they’re not out to get you. It’s the bees they’re after. Despite their fearsome reputation as bee killers, native bees have learned to live with them by evolving defences. Other bee species are more vulnerable, so we have reason to be concerned.

What to do about them?

Destroy their nests, basically, if you can find them. Years ago in our untrammelled youth, my elder brother and I did some experimentation on zapping wasp nests. We prepared a bomb out of a bit aluminium piping and blew up a nest in our rockery. Since we nearly decapitated our mother and a friend as they were taking tea by the swimming pool, we weren’t encouraged to move on to Nagasaki, so to speak. There wasn’t much left of the nest, though, let alone the rockery.

So I was heartened to see some boys in Raleigh, North Carolina gathering for a quick snack at Subway before they went off to demonstrate over the right to go out and hunt hornet nests. Their weaponry was clearly more sophisticated than ours. The guy with the really big gun definitely knows how to terminate hornets with extreme prejudice. The bazooka might also come in handy.

There seems to have been plenty of research into more subtle ways of eliminating the murder hornet, as witness a video I saw of a preying mantis devouring one. It’s too gross to show, but it’s fascinating to see how the victim continues to struggle even after its head has been eaten off.

Though they’re clearly effective at mandible-to-mandible combat, I suspect that training armies of preying mantises to go after hornets might have unintended consequences, as they would probably polish off every other insect in their paths, including ones we don’t want them to eat, such as bees.

Now that the public is fully aware through the social media of the hornet’s murderous habits, no doubt our leaders will find a way to beat back this latest threat. For Messrs Trump and Johnson, victories are hard to find at the moment. Every little win will help.

After spending a bit of time reading about these scary insects, I began to feel rather sorry for them. After all they’re just doing what comes naturally. I’m sure they have redeeming features, and anyway, who said that humans should have a monopoly on genocide?

From → Business, Travel, UK, USA

4 Comments
  1. Great post 😁

    • Thank you!

      • He didn’t try to explain. Baby steps really, and I think that’s sensible, not that I have much regard for him. Questions being asked are, in effect, which baby and what do the steps mean? Not clear unfortunately.

  2. deborah a moggio permalink

    Heard this morning on BBC that Mr. Johnson may have a difficult time this evening explaining how doing 100,000 tests in the UK didn’t all take place in the UK.
    Slow results are, as we all know, not quite so helpful as quick ones in these areas.
    Hmmmmm I think that may apply in other circumstances as well.

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