Rovira: Giant Asian murderer hornets: In the Rio Grande Valley? Maybe not. 

It’s making the news. A giant hornet originally from Asia has now been found in Washington state and can cause such a mean bite that it could possibly send a human into fatal anaphylaxis. 

Moreover, it threatens an already depleted bee population.

In Washington State they are taking a threat very seriously. Washington State University has begun to study the giant Asian hornet and is taking “kill it before it spreads” attitude towards the killer hornets.

“Scientists have since embarked on a full-scale hunt for the hornets, worried that the invaders could decimate bee populations in the United States and establish such a deep presence that all hope for eradication could be lost,” reads the post in the New York Times referring to actions that have been taken since the appearance of the hornets in Washington state.

CBS in Dallas-Forth Worth had this to say: “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched a task force that will look to combat a possible arrival of the so-called ‘murder hornet’ that has grabbed national attention since its recent sighting in Washington state.”

Although this pest has not been spotted in Texas, the hornet poses a threat to both agriculture and public health, according Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife. “Because of this, we are bringing to bear the diverse expertise and knowledge base that exists within Texas A&M AgriLife to collaborate with federal partners and extension agents across the country to protect our state and the global food supply,” Stover told

This writer, with a lot of time on his hands these days, has chosen to hark back to the days of Moore Field, a shuttered U.S. Air Force Base and the Screwworm Fly eradication program, right here in Mission, Texas. The screwworm fly, once a severe hazard to cattle, sheep, horses, any livestock, was attacked in earnest by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the 1960s, so earnestly, in fact, that the costly and dangerous past was eradicated in the states of Georgia, Florida, Texas and ultimately Mexico and Honduras.

The method of eradicating the screwworm involved capturing flies in the wild and bringing them into controlled laboratories to breed and reproduce where newborn flies were contaminated with radiation to render them sterile. The sterile flies were then released into the wild to breed with other flies. Since they only breed once in their lifetime flies afterwards die and in the case of sterile flies mating there were no more offspring. 

In 1962 the Moore Field USDA facility began to produce most of the sterile fly population for the Southwest United States. By 1966 the screwworm fly was successfully eradicated in the United States. In 1977, scientists of the Screwworm Research Unit relocated from the laboratory at Moore Air Force Base, to the sterile fly production facility near Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas, Mexico (However, Texas is usually re-infested each spring by flies migrating north from Mexico until through international cooperation it was finally completely eliminated from the United States by 1982. 

So what’s the connection between screwworm flies and giant Asian hornets? At Washington State University there are studies underway to find a solution to murderer hornets. Scientist years ago from the Department of Agriculture resolved the problem of killer screwworm flies. It will probably be a long time before they make their way to the Rio Grande Valley but maybe by the time they get here there will be something waiting for them, either Africanized killer bees, or who knows maybe a dose of radiation that was good enough to get rid of a fly, right here in Mission Texas. 

We hope they stop them in their tracks up in Washington State but if they don’t, watch out hornets! Don’t mess with Texas.

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