Washington state had detected its first nest of 'murder hornet' and disposed of its home this week, in an effort to eradicate the invasive species early in the season.
Workers of Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) suited up, vacuumed, and suctioned up nests before they can produce new queens. "While we are glad to have found and eradicated this nest so early in the season, this detection proves how important public reporting continues to be," said Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist.
Vespa mandarinia is the world's largest hornet commonly referred to as the Asian giant hornet, native to Japan and both temperate and tropical climates, and can also be found established in several countries in Asia, outside of its native range. In United States, the first known detection of Vespa mandarinia hornet was in Washington in fall of 2019.
"We expect there are more nests out there and, like this one, we hope to find them before they can produce new queens," Spichiger added.
Asian giant hornets came over to the U.S. as 'unwitting hitchhikers'
A nest of the world's largest hornet species was previously discovered in October last year in Washington state just 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away from east of the city of Blaine in rural Whatcom County, where entomologists recently found the nest, Aug. 11 of this year. WSDA spotted the nest at the base of a dead alder tree, just south of the U.S.-Canadian border.
While vacuuming up around 113 worker hornets from the nest, the staff also caught 67 additional murder hornets in the area. To their surprise, inside the decayed alder tree revealed a nest of nine layers of comb, with 1,500 larvae or developing hornets, and 180 adults.
The nest was removed by WSDA staff to be studied in Washington State University Extension in Bellingham, Whatcom County.
Scientists suspect that Asian giant hornets, while native to eastern and Southeast Asia, made it to America as "unwitting hitchhikers on something (like shipping containers) or someone."
Washington reaches out to the public to help with eradication efforts by reporting suspected sightings, as these invasive species could spread in North America and become permanently established if not eradicated sooner.
A killer invasive species in the U.S.
'Murder hornet' had not gotten its name for no reason. These social wasps, especially females (only ones with stingers), kills around 50 people in Japan each year, due to kidney failure, anaphylactic shock, heart attacks and multiple organ failure from repeated stinging.
However, murder hornets do not impose that much harm to humans compared to great danger they bring to bee populations. Researchers said that hornets attack bee hives, decapitating and killing the adults, occupying honeybee nests for up to a week or more, and feeding on larvae and pupae.
"They can conduct mass attacks on honey bee hives, destroying the hive in a matter of hours," said WSDA.
Through the end of the season in November, WSDA continues to set traps and eliminate Asian giant hornets in Washington state.
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