Officials in Washington state hope to find—and destroy—a nest of so-called “murder hornets.” The Asian giant hornets kill honey bees. The hornets’ dastardly deeds could ruin area berry crops.
Researchers first documented murder hornets in Washington state late last year. The invasive insect is native to China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. So far, Washington and the Canadian province of British Columbia are the only places the hornets have shown up in North America.
WORLDteen first reported on murder hornets in “Giant Hornets: Scariest Insect?” Since then, people living in the Blaine area have reported more sightings of the hornets to agriculture officials.
Fifteen have been found since the big bugs were first spotted in Washington in 2019, according to the agriculture department. But researchers have found six of them over the last week near the town of Blaine, Washington. The discovery suggests there are more nearby according to Department of Agriculture scientists.
“We believe we are dealing with a nest,” says Sven-Erik Spichiger, a department entomologist. “We hope to locate the nest in a couple of weeks and eradicate it.”
God made honey bees to pollinate many plants, including the plentiful raspberry and blueberry bushes of the northwestern United States. Farmers depend on help from the bees for a good harvest.
At two inches long, the Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest. The burly insects can deliver painful stings to humans—and destroy entire hives of honey bees. There is also evidence that the Asian giant hornets have been attacking native wasps and hornets.
The scary-named hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asia with repeated stinging attacks—but that is rare. By contrast, native U.S. hornets, wasps, and bees kill an average of 62 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The real threat from murder hornets lies ahead. Spichiger says the time of year when the hornets attack hives is nearing. He calls it the “slaughter phase.”
A state scientist managed to trap one live Asian giant hornet near Blaine in recent days. State officials tried to glue a radio tag to it. They wanted to follow the hornet back to its nest.
However, the glue didn’t dry fast enough. The radio tag fell off, and the hornet couldn’t fly. The scientists hope to capture another live hornet and then try, try again.
(A researcher holds a live Asian giant hornet with a tracking device affixed to it near Blaine, Washington. Karla Salp/Washington State Department of Agriculture via AP)