As detectives approach a hideout of fugitives deep in the woods, Washington state officials announced on Friday they had located the first deadly hornet’s nest in the United States, nestled in a hollow tree near the Canadian border.
Officials said they plan to destroy the nest in Blaine, Wash., On Saturday before the voracious Asian giant hornets can multiply and start destroying the bees that are vital for the survival of raspberries, blueberries and other crops from the region.
The discovery of the nest – which can hold 100 to 200 hornets – came after weeks of hunting and trapping insects, which are known to use their powerful mandibles to attack and destroy bee hives within hours.
The settlement was located in an area of forest and farmland on Thursday, after officials attached radio trackers to three trapped hornets. One of them led them to the nest, which was about eight feet in a tree on private property near an area that had been cleared for a house.
Giant Asian hornets usually nest in the ground, but officials said they have seen dozens of powerful hornets buzzing in and out of the trough.
During a press conference on Friday, Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, recalled stumbling across the nest as he followed a hornet’s radio signal to to get very strong.
“And at that point,” Mr Spichiger said, “I heard a hornet buzzing over my head, so we assumed she had left the scene. But then we heard another buzz above my head, and I stepped back and realized we were actually right under the nest. We actually traced it directly to where it came from. And so we were very happy about it.
Giant Asian hornets, which some researchers are calling murderous hornets, lurked in the American psyche last year after being first discovered in the United States in Washington state, prompting officials to issue a pest alert and to warn that hornets are a threat. to bees.
Measuring up to two inches long, Asian giant hornets are the largest hornets in the world, and their powerful sting can deliver extremely painful venom. In Japan, hornets kill up to 50 people a year.
In Washington State, authorities have tried to find a nest quickly as the hornets are about to enter their “slaughter phase”. This is when they attack the hives in force, removing and beheading all the bees inside, then harvesting the brood and chrysalis for food.
Using a network of traps, state entomologists have been meticulously monitoring hornet sightings since the first one was trapped earlier this year.
Managers felt they were getting closer to their careers last month, when a pastor who lives near Blaine, about 30 miles south of Vancouver, spotted giant Asian hornets landing on a wasp nest in his store. .
Chris Looney, a state entomologist who visited the property to investigate, managed to catch one of the hornets in a net – the first captured alive in the United States, according to the department.
But an attempt to attach a tracking device to one of the hornets failed when a dot of glue on a hornet did not dry quickly enough, Spichiger said, and the tracking device slipped at the moment. where the authorities were about to release the insect.
This time, he said, the radio trackers got stuck, using glue and dental floss.
To eradicate the nest, Mr Spichiger said, officials plan to fill the hollow tree with moss and then wrap it in plastic wrap. Officials will then vacuum the hornets in a canister and save some for research, he said.
Mr Spichiger said members of the elimination team would wear thick white overalls with rubber gloves and boots as well as face shields that can protect them from hornet venom, which can cause debilitating eye injuries. .
“They’re going to sting the suits and hopefully they won’t make it through to the end,” he said. “We will know tomorrow morning if they really work.”