The media can stir up unfounded and destructive emotional reactions to what, in reality, are minor events. In May of 2020, the media announced that Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) hornets had been found in Washington State and British Columbia. The media referred to them as “murder hornets” and expressed the fear that those hornets would sweep across the continent, killing people with their lethal stings. That caused some panic, especially in the eastern United States, which could be called “murder hornet madness.”
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven had numerous calls from people who believed they had a murder hornet in their backyard. In all cases so far, the specimen turned out to be a European hornet, bald face hornet, robber fly, or cicada-killer wasp.
To quell murder hornet madness, here are the facts about the Asian giant hornets from Science News:
1) They hunt for honeybees, not people, and the concern is for the honey industry, not because they will kill humans. A few months ago, we posted about how the honeybees have devised a defense against them.
2) Their nests have all been destroyed.
3) Studies show that migration to the east is almost impossible because of the mountains and other natural barriers in the way.
4) None of them have been seen anywhere but in the coastal ranges of Washington state and British Columbia. That is 3000 miles away from the people calling their local entomologists claiming to see them in their yards or parks.
Expert entomologist Gale Ridge, who has been working on the Asian giant hornet issue, says, “The combination of half-listening and overdramatization of the facts by the media creates an anxiety driven stew.” There is a threat to honeybees, making it essential to prevent this invasive species from getting a foothold in North America. However, Asian giant hornets are not a direct risk to humans.
We need to realize that the media are trying to get viewers and readers. They often overlook or overdramatize the facts, even creating “murder hornet madness.” That is true not just in cases of natural phenomena but also in politics and religion.
— John N. Clayton © 2021