A hornet that can grow to the size of an adults' thumb, and delivery a sting so painful one entomologist described it as “like having red-hot thumbtacks" being driven into their flesh has been spotted in the United States for the first time.

They known to some as the Japanese giant hornet, the yak-killer hornet, or sparrow wasp. But some have taken to calling them by another more ominous name; murder hornets. The NY Times says the insects have been spotted in Washington state.

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The hornets are most active from July to October. According to an article at the Weather Channel, the hornets attack bee hives and kill the bees by decapitating them. Todd Murray, a Washington State University Extension entomologist and invasive species specialist, said:

As a new species entering our state, this is the first drop in the bucket, Just like that, it’s forever different.

We need to teach people how to recognize and identify this hornet while populations are small, so that we can eradicate it while we still have a chance.

Could we ever see these insects on the east coast? Perhaps not yet. It could take several years for them to start showing up in this part of the country. But if they do, beware. These are not something you want to mess around with.