The first Asian giant hornet nest of 2021 was located in Washington state on August 19. Entomologists eradicated the nest on August 25 and have urged residents to watch for more hornet sightings, per a Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) statement.
The incident occurred about a week after a resident reported a live sighting of the invasive hornet species in a rural area east of Blaine, Washington, reports Maya Yang for the Guardian. Officials discovered the new hive just two miles away from where another nest was found near the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington, in October 2020. The nest that was found last year was the first one ever found in the United States.
The insects are the world’s largest hornets, with queens reaching up to two inches long. They are considered invasive in North America for their ability to wreak havoc on other bee and hornet species, which is how they got the nickname "murder hornets" for their ability to wipe out other hives, reports Nicholas K. Geranios the Associated Press.
Asian giant hornets can attack and destroy entire honeybee colonies in hours. The hornets also deliver an excruciating sting if aggravated, which can result in death if stung repeatedly. (Asian giant hornets rarely attack humans unless provoked. Only about 30 to 50 people die annually from Asian giant hornet stings in Japan, one of their native habitats.)
Officials located the nest after netting and tagging three hornets from August 11 to August 17. One of the hornets slipped out of the tracking device, another one was never found, but the third one led entomologists to the nest, per a WSDA statement.
The nest was burrowed in the base of an alder tree. To remove the nest, officials vacuumed 113 worker hornets before removing bark and decayed wood to access nine layers of the comb. Upon removing the decayed wood, the team learned that the hornets carved out the tree’s interior to make room for their nest, the Associated Press reports.
Part of the tree containing the nest was cut and sent to Washington State University for further examination. Aside from vacuuming the worker hornets, entomologists also captured 67 live hornets flying around in the area. In total, the eradicated nest had 1,500 murder hornets in various stages of development, per the Guardian. Last year’s nest had 500 live hornets in multiple stages of development.
“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,” says Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist, in a statement. “We expect there are more nests out there and, like this one, we hope to find them before they can produce new queens. Your report may be the one that leads us to a nest.”
The WSDA will continue to be on the lookout for the hornets until the end of November. If interested in setting up your own Asian giant hornet trap or want to report a sighting, visit the WSDA’s website.