Experts found and then captured two ‘murder hornet’ queens after returning to finish clearing out a nest in Washington.
In an operation on 24 October, entomologists eradicated the first-ever discovered US nest of the giant Asian insect after they were discovered in Blaine, north of Seattle.
Members of the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s (WSDA) Pest Program returned on Wednesday to remove a portion of the tree where the wasps had been nesting.
‘As we were cutting it down yesterday, two queens emerged from the tree. They could be two virgin queens or one virgin queen and the queen that actually started the nest,’ said Karla Salp, a spokesperson for the agency.
‘We do not know if they were both virgin queens or not. That’s something we’re looking into over the next several days,’ she added.
In footage captured during the operation, a worker can be heard saying: ‘Any more than one queen is not good news.’
Pictured: One of the queens discovered during the operation last Wednesday in Blaine, Whatcom County, Washington
Pictured: Both queens discovered during the operation last Wednesday in Blaine, Whatcom County, Washington
Pictured: A worker from the WSDA’s Pest Program prepares to remove a section of the tree the murder hornets were nesting in
Once the section of the tree was removed, the agency transported it to the Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center to be kept in a walk-in cooler to make the hornets docile.
The scientists pumped carbon dioxide into the tree on Thursday in order to split the log and analyze its contents.
‘Once it opened, then we started removing Asian giant hornets that were still in the nest. They appeared, at least some of them, alive,’ Salp said.
Scientists also found larvae on the nest’s comb.
They said they won’t have a final tally of the hornets until they’re able to count all of them.
Entomologists first discovered the Asian giant hornet nest in a tree cavity on private property in Blaine, Whatcom County, close to the US-Canada border on 22 October.
The insects had set up camp inside the cavity on the land that had been cleared to build residential property on.
The WSDA closed in on the insects last month when experts captured and attached tracking devices to some of the hornets.
Pictured: One of the queens captured from the tree in Washington. In a Facebook post, the WSDA said they managed to vacuum 85 live hornets from the nest. All of them will be studied for research
Entomologists attached radio trackers to three insects using dental floss and waited for one of them to lead them to the nest.
The second hornet was traced to the nest where experts then watched dozens of hornets entering and exiting the tree.
‘While Asian giant hornets normally nest in the ground, they are occasionally found nesting in dead trees,’ the WSDA said in a statement.
‘Dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present.’
It was about 300 yards (274 meters) from the traps in the cavity of a tree on private property, officials said.
A worker from the Washington State Department of Agriculture displays a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him
Murder hornets from the first nest in the US have been successfully sucked out of a tree cavity and placed on ice after experts discovered the nest in Washington state
Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working in pre-dawn darkness illuminated with red lamps, vacuum up a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree
A Washington State Department of Agriculture workers holds two of the dead Asian giant hornets vacuumed from the nest in the tree Saturday
Dozens of the hornets were seen buzzing in and out of the tree about seven or eight feet (2 meters) above the ground.
The first confirmed detection of the hornet in the US was in December 2019 near Blaine and the first live hornet was trapped this July.
Just over 20 have been caught so far, all in Whatcom County.
The invasive insect is normally found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries.
Washington state and the Canadian province of British Columbia are the only places the hornets have been found on the continent.
The WSDA announced late Saturday morning that the removal of the Asian giant hornet nest had been a success after a spokesman earlier said it could go on past one day. Pictured the tree is wrapped in plastic wrap to prevent the hornets from escaping after the cavity was filled with foam
A worker is seen inserting a tube into the cavity to vacuum up the hornets trapped inside before depositing them them in a collection chamber
The insects had set up camp inside the cavity of a tree on the land that had been cleared to build residential property on (pictured)
In the last month, there have been several sightings of the invasive pests in the Blaine area of the state.
It is not clear how they arrived in America.
The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest hornet at two inches and can decimate entire hives of honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food.
A small group of the hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in hours, and they have already destroyed six or seven hives in Washington state, officials said.
Farmers in the northwestern US depend on those honey bees to pollinate many crops, including raspberries and blueberries.
Despite their nickname, the hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asia, and experts say it is probably far less but they do deliver painful stings to humans.
Hornets, wasps and bees typically found in the US kill an average of 62 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Murder Hornet statistics
Latin name: Vespa mandarinia
Adult length: 1 3/4 inches
Wingspan: Three inches
Sting length: Quarter of an inch
Description: Yellow face and large black and yellow striped abdomen. Large jaws and a noisy flier.
Asian giant hornets are more than double the size of honeybees, and have a wingspan measuring more than three inches
Natural habitat: Across Asia
Venom: It administers seven times more venom than a honeybee when it stings. This acts as a neurotoxin and can lead to seizures and cardiac arrests. The sting is described as incredibly painful.
Behavior: Insect emerges in April and nests in the ground. It predates on many insects, but particularly targets honeybees.
Risks Has a habit of sacking bee hives, decapitating the workers and stealing the young. The European honeybee has no defense against the invader. Its stings could also prove fatal to Americans.