Earlier this week, scientists destroyed the first “murder hornet” nest in the US, but two queens managed to escape. “Murder hornets” are an invasive species to the United States that has been making headlines this year. The real name for this insect is the “Asian giant hornet” but it has earned the nickname “murder hornet” because they are actually capable of killing a human being, and they are also a major threat to honeybee populations, which are already dangerously low.
On Wednesday, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials were able to cut down and remove the entire tree that once held the first known murder hornet nest, and this is where they found the two queens. Incredibly the scientists managed to capture the queens in vials, according to CBS News.
They also captured 13 other live hornets for observation and research.
In a statement on Friday, WSDA announced the finding, describing the process that scientists went through to take apart the tree.
Over the next several days, WSDA entomologists will continue to analyze the nest and its contents. They will record data such as the number and caste of adult specimens, the number and size of the nest cells, overall nest size, weight and length of collected specimens, and more. All of the data will be made publicly available when it is complete and will be posted to the WSDA’s Asian giant hornet webpage at agr.wa.gov/hornets.
Murder Hornets were discovered in the US after an entire hive of honey bees was destroyed back in November and the bees were found decapitated. A short time after, two Asian giant hornets were found just a few miles north near Blaine, near the U.S.-Canadian border. After that incident, scientists and residents were on the lookout for the species.
Anyone who finds a murder hornet nest is urged to contact their local health authorities instead of attempting to damage the nest themselves. In previous cases, people have attempted to destroy murder hornet nests, only to find out that they were actually regular bee nests.
Doug Yanega, senior museum scientist for the Department of Entomology at UC Riverside told the LA Times that these insects aren’t as threatening as they appear to be, and reminded reporters that the “murder hornets” have not created an armageddon in Asia yet, and they have been there hundreds of years, but they do represent a danger to other insects as an invasive species.
The Asian giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, is the world’s largest hornet species. They have large yellow-orange heads, prominent eyes and are between 1.5 to 2 inches long. The Asian giant hornet is often confused with the yellow-legged hornet (Vespa velutina), also known as the Asian hornet, an invasive species of major concern across Europe, including the UK. In some Japanese mountain villages, the nests are excavated and the larvae are considered a delicacy when fried.
Washington residents are still asked to report Asian giant hornet sightings (with a photo if possible) online, via email at [email protected], or by calling 1-800-443-6684.