Illustrations by Hannah Robinson
You can keep COVID-19. For me, 2020 has been a year all about one thing; the so-called ‘murder hornets’, coming into the UK and murdering UK bee populations. Not to be underestimated, they also kill, on average, fifty people a year in Japan.
Asian Giant Hornets, or vespa mandarinia, have preoccupied me ever since the Daily Mirror published a story on 10th April 2020 titled ‘Deadly Asian Hornets that can ‘kill with one sting’ are heading to the UK’.
The thought of being stung by a ‘murder hornet’ is not what preoccupies me. These hornets only sting when they are agitated and not agitating hornets is something that has come naturally to me since childhood. They have also already been known to exist in the UK for four years and are yet to claim their first victim in this green and pleasant land. It is, rather, the addition of ‘murder hornets’ to a long line of media conjecture, that has weighed heavy on my mind this year.
Before this year, it had been the plight of ‘psycho seagulls’ that had been my primary concern. Like many of the great media campaigns over the last decade, sightings of ‘psycho seagulls’ have been principally reported in The Sun and The Daily Star.
The birds caught the imagination of the public last year after Gizmo, the chihuahua, was snatched by a ‘psycho seagull’ in Devon. The horror stories continued long into the summer. After flying down and drinking lager that had been left in coastal beer gardens, ‘aggressive boozed-up seagulls’ were apparently falling from roofs and vomiting on members of the public. All of this culminated in the most horrific story of them all, entitled ‘Killer seagull pecked off my bellend while I cooled my cock in ice cream’, reported in Sunday Sport on 28th July 2019.
While I am not at all defending being aggressively boozed-up, falling from roofs or vomiting on members of the public (despite the fact that humans likely do these things in seaside towns every summer), I have a respect and admiration for these ‘psycho seagulls’. Along with grey squirrels, ‘murder hornets’, Japanese knotweed and many others, they teach us that fear of the unknown and a lack of control can be applied to literally anything.
The tabloid press treats invasive species in the same way that they treat immigrants, as though life was peaceful and serene before immigrants arrived.
In reference to ‘murder hornets’ the article published in the Mirror in April said that it would cost millions to ‘send them packing’. Where have we heard this before? Indeed, in an unprecedented hero-to-villain story entitled ‘Psycho seagulls keep out illegals’, The Daily Star reported that ‘psycho seagulls’ provided ‘a last line of defence in the fight to keep illegal immigrants out of the country’.
According to the Star, thousands of foreigners looking to make a break for the UK (or refugees, if you prefer) had, of their own volition, made the Calais Jungle camp so squalid that it provided the perfect environment for ‘psycho seagulls’ to attack them. Perhaps the Sun and the Star owe these brave and plucky ornithological heroes an apology for keeping our shores so safe from ‘invasion’, just like they owe an apology to the immigrant doctors and nurses currently keeping our population safe after years of xenophobic baiting.
Reporting on invasive and aggressive species tells us more about the internal machinations of the tabloid press than any piece about immigration or crime. The heinous and base-emotive coverage of issues such as immigration and crime are justified by the papers and politicians as ‘political hot potatoes’, that you’d care about if you were at the coal face against them.
Seagulls and hornets are not legitimate problems that people face in the real world. They have not killed anyone in the UK in their four years here and, provided that getting as far away from hornets as possible is within your capacity, they will not kill you. It is only in a country containing no dangerous snakes, spiders or mosquitoes that hornets and seagulls become a concern. Surreal anxieties cause surreal threats.
Perhaps if we had not decimated honeybee populations in the first place, then the hornets would not have such an easy job. The provocation of those who perpetually scaremonger is why I love ‘psycho seagulls’ and why I feel like ‘murder hornets’ could prove the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I’d like to welcome new ‘murder hornet’ arrivals to Britain and, however long your stay, I hope that you can contribute as fruitfully and as prosperously to our media industry as possible.