There are more “murder hornets” in the state of Washington


Entomologists in Washington state have so far this year destroyed two nests of the Asian giant hornet – nicknamed the “murder hornet” – and are planning to wipe out another nest to eradicate the insects, an invasive species that can massacre honeybees and so on 2019 in the Pacific Northwest.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture said on September 11th on social media that it had found two nests of insects, the largest species of hornet in the world, and destroyed one of them. Amber Betts, a spokeswoman for the department, said Sept. 13 that a first nest had been destroyed a few weeks earlier.

“The goal is to completely eradicate them,” she said, adding that the hornets would be considered completely eradicated after “two consecutive years with negative results”.

She added, “Right now we’re just doing our best to see how many there are out there.”

Asian giant hornets were first seen in the United States, Washington state in December 2019 when a resident of Blaine, a town near the Canadian border, found one of the dead insects. It was handed over to state entomologists and the hunt for more hornets began.

Agriculture officials issued a warning that the hornets could pose a threat to honey bees, whose hives can be wiped out by hornets in hours. The department set up a guidance line and links for sightings and relied on the public to report locations, Betts said.

When state officials wanted to catch more hornets, they also reached out to a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) service who provided assistance in tracking the hornets using radio tags that were used to study the movements of spotted lantern flies that are invasive to the invasive species East coast cause problems.

The approach worked. A hornet tied with a glued-on tracker eventually led entomologists to a nest about eight feet high on a tree in a region of forest and farmland about 25 miles south of Vancouver. In October, the state Department of Agriculture announced it had destroyed the nest, the first time in the United States that one had been wiped out.

A team plugged the nest with foam, wrapped the tree in plastic, and vacuumed the hornets, officials said.

Betts said the same techniques were used on nest removals this year, with a paramedic on site in case a hornet stings someone. (The hornet’s sting is long enough to pierce a beekeeping suit, and its sting has been described in appalling terms.) The crew used protective gear during the operations that also had carbon dioxide injected to immobilize the hornets, she said.

She added that a hornet queen was removed on Saturday.

Betts said the four nests found so far were all in the same general area, just a few miles apart in north Whatcom County.

Scientists don’t know exactly how or when the insects arrived in the United States. The USDA said the hornets may have been introduced into the country through illegal imports of live specimens used for food and medicinal purposes.

The insects get their nickname from their violent behavior: they grab and destroy honey beehives and kill the bees by beheading them in what is called the “slaughter phase” by entomologists. Then they invade and take over the beehives as their own and feed their young with the bee larvae and pupae.

“Although they generally don’t attack people or pets, they can attack them when threatened,” the state’s Department of Agriculture said in a statement. “Its sting is longer than that of a honey bee and its venom is more poisonous. You can sting again and again. “

The bite can be fatal for allergy sufferers.

The hornets are characterized by their yellow heads and can be nearly 5 centimeters long with spines of about 6 millimeters or about a quarter of an inch. They can wipe out entire beehives that serve as key pollinators for crops.

© 2021 The New York Times Company


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