Washington beekeepers became aware of the presence of the Asian giant hornet in December, after they discovered hundreds of bees with their heads ripped off

By Tim McGovern
October 23, 2020 10:39 PM
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Murder hornet
| Credit: Getty

If your 2020 bingo card was missing "murder hornet nest discovered," you can cross that off the list.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced Friday that the first nest of the Asian giant hornet (a.k.a. the "murder hornet") has been found within the U.S. in Blaine, Washington — a city that lies on the U.S.-Canada border.

And while that may seem terrifying, the WSDA said that the "agency plans to attempt an eradication of the nest on Saturday," having only postponed the eradication due to inclement weather.

Using a "new type of trap," a WSDA trapper was able to capture two hornets on Wednesday. On Thursday, two more were caught in a separate trap.

In a successful sting operation, entomologists "were able to attach radio trackers to three hornets, the second of which lead them to the discovery of the nest" later on Thursday, according to the WSDA statement.

In addition to the plan to destroy their nest, the WSDA said that "property owner has already provided permission for WSDA staff" to "remove the tree, if necessary" if their plot to take down the home of "dozens" of murder hornets fails.

This isn't the first time the murder hornet has been seen in Washington — or trapped.

The WSDA previously announced in July the capture of the first male Asian giant hornet detected in the United States. The insect (also known as Vespa mandarinia) was caught using a bottle trap near Custer, Whatcom County.

"Trapping a male Asian giant hornet in July initially came as a surprise," Sven Spichiger, a managing entomologist at the WSDA, said in a statement. "But further examination of the research and consultation with international experts confirmed that a few males can indeed emerge early in the season."

"Citizen scientists and other cooperators" have helped WSDA set more than 1,400 traps throughout Washington to slow the spread of the hornets.

Washington beekeepers were the first to spot the Asian giant hornet after they discovered hundreds of bees with their heads ripped off in December.

Asian Giant Hornet
| Credit: Filippo Turetta/Wikimedia

The hornet typically invades honey bee hives and destroys them from the inside out in a matter of hours, according to WSDA. The species does this by decapitating the bees and feeding surviving larvae to their own young.

If the species manages to establish itself in Washington and surrounding areas, it will create "negative impacts on the environment, economy, and public health," the WSDA said.

According to the New York Times, the Asian giant hornets — native to temperate and tropical areas such as East Asia, South Asia and Mainland Southeast Asia — kill up to 50 people a year in Japan. The insect has been given the nickname "murder hornet" in the country because of its toxic venom, which can equal that of a venomous snake, the outlet reported.

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While the Asian giant hornet does not generally attack people or pets, it can when threatened.

"Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin," Seth Truscott, of the college of agricultural, human and natural resource sciences at WSU, previously told WSU Insider. "Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic."

According to the Associated Press, officials still unaware of how the insect arrived stateside.