Director Michael Paul Stephenson talks about documenting the hunt for the dreaded insect.

By Clark Collis
February 19, 2021 at 11:24 AM EST
Credit: discovery +

In the new Discovery+ film Attack of the Murder Hornets, director Michael Paul Stephenson documents how last year the Washington State Department of Agriculture teamed with local citizenry to hopefully eradicate the invading army of "murder hornets." The hornets threatened the local bee population and inspired countless headlines around the globe.

"We were all having a coronavirus moment, and then it was murder hornets and it was like, 'Jesus, what else?'" said Stephenson. "The thing that pulled me the most towards it was, what is it like to be a bee keeper and a pest control worker and having to try to stop what could be the establishment of an invasive species? The odds are slim! It felt like it was an impossible mission. What I didn't really know, or see coming, was this feeling [about] the value of public service. I will never look at hornets the same but I will never look at government and public service the same after seeing this small contingent of folks really committed to actually doing what they're paid to do."

The murder hornet's sting can be fatal to humans but the filmmaker insists he wasn't concerned for his own safety while shooting the documentary in the Washington countryside.

"I wasn't worried because I leap before I look, and I was with the scientists, and I pick my cues from the experts," he said. "I brought live murder hornets home one night in a container, so my kids could see them. My kids were terrified, except for my youngest, she loves murder hornets, she thinks they're the cutest things."

Stephenson's previous documentaries have covered subjects related to the horror genre. 2009's Best Worst Movie concerned the film Troll 2 (in which Stephenson appeared as a child actor) while 2012's American Scream looked at amateur haunted attractions. Indeed, the director admits he has no science background at all.

"Not a smidge," he says. "I don't know if I had ever even uttered the word 'entomologist.' From the beginning, it felt like, this is a horror movie, this feels like a science fiction drama, and this feels like a very interesting space to tell character stories around an important issue. I mean, if we lose our honey bees, it's a big deal."

So, where does the country stand now murder hornets-wise?

"For this to be truly eradicated, three years has to pass without a single sighting," said Stephenson. "It's yet to be determined if any of these nests or hornets made it through winter. I had to actually update the end card in my film because Congress passed this whole coronavirus relief bill and part of that was earmarked towards giving states like Washington support for the murder hornet eradication pilot program, but Congress has not actually appropriated any money to fund the pilot program. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. It could be really serious. It's the kind of thing where you could be three years down the road and everybody will be like, why didn't we do something about this?"

Attack of the Murder Hornets premieres on Discovery+ Feb. 20. Exclusively watch the documentary's new trailer, below.

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