Like detectives approaching a fleeting hiding place deep in the forest, Washington state officials announced on Friday that they had found the first nest of murder hornets in the United States, hidden in a tree hollow near the Canadian border.
Officials said they wanted to destroy the nest in Blaine, Washington, on Saturday before the voracious Asian giant hornets could breed and devastate bees, which are vital to the survival of raspberries, blueberries and other crops in the area.
The discovery of the nest – which can contain 100 to 200 hornets – came after weeks of hunting and capturing the insects, which are notorious for attacking and destroying honey beehives with their powerful mandibles within a few hours.
The colony was in a region of forests and farmland on Thursday after officials ticked three captured hornets with radio meters. One of them led them to the nest that was in a tree on private property near an area that had been cleared for a house.
Asian giant hornets usually nest in the ground, but officials said they saw dozens of the mighty hornets buzzing in and out of the hollow.
At a press conference on Friday, Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, recalled tripping over the nest while following a radio signal from a hornet until it got very strong.
“And at that point,” said Mr. Spichiger, “I actually heard a hornet hum above my head, so we assumed that it had left the place. But then we heard another buzz above my head and I took a step back to find that we were actually right under the nest. We had actually traced her right back to where she came from. And we were pretty happy about that. “
Asian giant hornets, which some researchers call murder hornets, burrowed their way into the American psyche last year after they were first discovered in the US in Washington state, and urged officials to do one Pest alert and warn that the hornets pose a threat to honey bees.
Asian giant hornets are the largest hornets in the world, up to 5 cm in length, and their powerful sting can release excruciatingly painful venom. in the In Japan, the hornets kill up to 50 people a year.
In Washington state officials have tried to find a nest quickly because the hornets are about to enter their “slaughter” phase. Then they attack hives in force, remove and decapitate each bee inside, and then harvest the brood and pupae for food.
Using a network of traps, government entomologists have meticulously followed hornet sightings since the first was caught earlier this year.
Officials felt they were approaching their quarry last month when a pastor who lives near Blaine, about 30 miles south of Vancouver, discovered giant Asian hornets that landed on a wasp’s nest in his shop.
Chris Looney, a state entomologist who went to the property to investigate, managed to catch one of the hornets in a net – the first to be caught alive in the United States, according to the department.
However, an attempt to attach a tracking device to one of the hornets failed when a glue dot on a hornet didn’t dry quickly enough, Spichiger said, and the tracking device slipped when officers tried to release the insect.
This time, he said, the radiotrackers got stuck with glue and floss.
In order to eradicate the nest, the officials plan to fill the tree cavity with foam and then wrap it in plastic wrap, said Mr Spichiger. Officials will then vacuum the hornets in a canister and save some of them for research, he said.
Mr Spichiger said members of the elimination team would wear thick white suits with rubber gloves and boots, and face shields that can protect them from the hornet’s venom, which can lead to debilitating eye injuries.
“They’ll sting the suits and hopefully not all the way through,” he said. “We’ll find out in the morning whether they really work.”