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'They are not a joke' | Doctor warns of murder hornets' impact on humans

Asian giant hornets, also known as "murder hornets," can have devastating effects on American honey bee populations and be dangerous for humans.

WASHINGTON — Asian Giant Hornets, also known as murder hornets, can have devastating effects on American honey bee populations and be dangerous for humans.

"We've been sounding the alarm about this insect for months," Dr. Samuel Ramsey said.

Ramsey, an entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is glad the country is taking notice of the potential threat so-called murder hornets could have on the economy and to humans.

"It is a very large insect. About the size of your thumb. It has these very sharp, large mandibles that are attached to these really big muscles that allow it to chew through a lot of different fabrics. They can chew through skin, and they also have a really long stinger," Ramsey described.

He explained the insects' poisonous venom can destroy cells and signals constant pain to an individuals' nerves.

Ramsey said the murder hornets have been known to kill up to 50 people a year in its native region of Japan.

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"That is a large number because most stinging insects that we deal with on a regular basis inject a much smaller amount of venom," Ramsey said. 

The only confirmed murder hornet sightings have been in Washington state, and Ramsey said it could take years for the insect to travel to the East Coast.

"The Washington State Dept. of Agriculture -- they are doing a lot right now to track each of these colonies," Ramsey said.

He said scientists are using things, such as, thermo-imaging cameras and traps to catch and kill the insects before they spread to far.

Ramsey said there is no reason to panic, but it is important to be informed.

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