"Murder Hornets" are invading the United States. It's just one more test that 2020 has sent our way.
For Air Force pest control airmen, however, the Asian giant hornet is old news -- the service has been fighting them for years.
But the Murder Hornet isn't the only enemy waiting for military pest controllers to slip up; it just gets the most name recognition. From deserts to rain forests to base housing, there are many threats that could be just as fatal. Or annoying.
1. Fattail Scorpions
With American and allied troops actively engaged from Afghanistan and westward toward the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, one pest that troops have to be aware of is Androctonus crassicauda -- Latin for "Fat-tailed mankiller."
This scorpion's venom is one of the deadliest in the world, and it lives everywhere you'll find deployed troops, from the Persian Gulf to the Hindu Kush. Its sting can kill a human in a few hours -- so check your boots before you put them on.
2. North American Raccoon
While little is dangerous about encountering a common raccoon going through the trash, there's a lot about a raccoon that can harm military readiness. These buggers are found all over North America and can weigh anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds. According to the Air Force's 509th Civil Engineering Squadron's Pest Management section, base housing is a flashing sign for an all-you-can-eat buffet for these guys.
Raccoons are major carriers of rabies and canine distemper, not to mention fleas and ticks and parasitic diseases. On top of spreading infectious disease, an explosion in the population of raccoons can also lead to wildlife strikes with aircraft (no, I'm not kidding).
While the United States isn't too worried about malarial mosquitoes, the military sure is. After all, they're the ones who had to go off and fight in malarial zones. For decades now, the U.S. has made a concerted effort to stop the spread of malaria through mosquitoes. Navy entomologists have been studying alongside allied partners and other U.S. agencies to learn how to stop the disease vector and stop the mosquitoes themselves.
Snakes are trouble, no matter where they're found. But for soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, snakes can be a threat to their job performance at best or a threat to their family at worst. Military pest control managers don't kill invading species out of hand; that's a last resort. But some of the species they encounter probably make them wish they could.
Invasive pit vipers are hunted across Okinawa, Japan. Boa constrictors are found on tropical bases and -- of course -- rattlesnakes are a danger all across the American West.
5. Murder Hornets
Yes, the Air Force is squaring off against the murder hornet, a large bug with a painful sting that can cause some 40 deaths every year. At Japan's Yokota Air Base alone, the pest control team gets more than 70 calls a year about encroaching Asian giant hornets.
Yokota Air Base has seen its share of Murder Hornet nests. The species is aggressive, and its sting releases a pheromone that causes other hornets to sting the same target.
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