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Scientists have destroyed a nest of deadly hornets. Here is what they learned.

The giant Asian hornets – better known as the murderous hornets – have inspired menacing headlines throughout the summer amid warnings that invading insects could decimate American bee populations. Last month, after various sightings in the Pacific Northwest, officials in Washington state discovered and removed the first known deadly hornet nest in the United States.

As authorities continue to search for more nests to destroy in hopes of eradicating the hornets from the country, entomologists are revealing what they have learned from the nest’s first removal.

“It really looks like we got there on time,” Sven-Erik Spichiger, senior entomologist in the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said at a news conference on the nest’s findings this week.

Here’s what the scientists found.

At the end of last month, authorities in Blaine, Washington, removed the nest of aggressive hornets – which were about to enter their “slaughter phase” – before they could multiply and kill them. domestic bees from the area. If they had not been removed, the insects could have devastated pollinators essential to raspberries, blueberries and other crops in the region.

The hornet is not native to the United States and can be more commonly found in Asia, where it is known to kill up to 50 people per year in Japan.

Blaine’s settlement was located in an area of ​​forest and farmland after authorities attached radio trackers to three hornets they had trapped earlier. One of these hornets led the officials to the nest, which was about eight feet in a tree.

Entomologists extracted a few hundred hornets with a vacuum, then sealed the rest of the nest on Oct. 24, Spichiger said at the press conference, which was held virtually Tuesday. Authorities then removed the section of the tree where the nest had been sealed and took her to a quarantined research facility at Washington State University.

On October 29, authorities opened the nest to find most of the insects still alive. Including the hornets that were sucked in a few days earlier, officials said they removed around 500 hornets at various stages of the life of the nest, which measured around 14 inches long and at least eight inches wide.

In addition to the 112 worker hornets found, there were hundreds of larvae and pupae (the stage of life after larvae), as well as eggs and male hornets. Mr Spichiger also said the nest is capable of holding around 200 queens.

The nest is smaller than those found in areas where hornets are native, where there may be up to 700 queens, Mr Spichiger said.

Although Mr Spichiger said authorities removed many queens from the nest just in time, he said some may have escaped and formed new colonies next year.

At least three queens were found in a bucket of water nearby after extraction, he said, adding that it was impossible for officials to ensure they caught all of the hornets or how many there might be.

“When you see all the relatively small nests capable of popping 200 queens, it gives a bit of a break, because eventually each of those queens could become a new nest,” he says.

If queens did escape, they might not survive if they had not received adequate nutrition before leaving the nest. But if a person was properly fed and mated with a male, they could theoretically leave and choose a protected area to isolate during the winter, helping to form new colonies in the spring.

“It’s clear since we captured specimens last year and captured queens early, that a few of them were successful in establishing nests in 2020,” he said.

Hoping to eventually eradicate the hornets, state Department of Agriculture workers will continue to trap them until at least Thanksgiving.

However, officials will not follow queens they might capture as they likely won’t return to a nest for officials to eradicate. At this point in the season, the best chance for officials to locate another nest is for hornets to continue attacking a beehive, Mr Spichiger said.

The finds from this nest have left officials unsure of how the hornets got to the Pacific Northwest. Mr Spichiger said it was likely that a mated queen made it to Washington through international trade. He also said it was possible someone had smuggled the hornets into the United States to breed them for food. (They are sometimes eaten as snacks or used as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages.)

Even if there are no other hornets found in the area in the future, authorities will continue to use traps for at least three more years to ensure the area is free of hornets.

“These are not going to hunt you down and murder you,” Mr Spichiger said. But, “If you walk into a nest, your life is probably in danger.”

Yet, he added, “your life is also in danger if you also enter the nest of other biting insects.”

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Video: Deadly hornet’s nest destroyed in Washington state

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Deadly hornet’s nest destroyed in Washington state

Officials said they removed a giant Asian hornet nest found in a tree near Blaine, Wash., Before the insects could multiply and devastate bee colonies. The nest was the first to be found in the United States.

“They’re pretty – -” “They fog up in there, don’t they?” “Well, yeah, because it’s on ice. “Yeah.”

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Hornet Nest murder, the first in the US, is found in Washington state

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.”