Scientists have destroyed America’s first-ever nest of Asian giant hornets. The insects, also known by the name of “murder hornets,” have a sting that can put a person in the hospital and even cause death. Native to Asia, the hornets’ first American nest was found in Washington state in the city of Blaine.
When scientists first discovered the nest of murder hornets, there were 200 insects inside it. Soon, it was decided that the pests needed to be exterminated to avoid future complications. As such, the scientists wore protective suits, approached the nest, and vacuumed out the insects. According to the State Department of Agriculture, which was part of the extermination mission, the existence of hornets in Washington state was only confirmed last year.
Entomologists from the state cooperated with the USDA to come up with eradication plans for the pests so as to protect the honey bee population in Washington. Asian giant hornets often target honey bee colonies and are capable of destroying a single colony in just a few hours. As such, a huge population of these hornets is a big threat to the honey bee population as well as the crops that rely on the pollination done by bees.
The nest of murder hornets was apparently discovered by capturing a few hornets and placing tracking devices on them. The scientists then followed one of the hornets back to the nest.
“Using a network of traps, some set by WSDA staff and hundreds more placed by citizen scientists and other cooperators throughout the state, the entomologists have been diligently tracking sightings of the Asian giant hornet in an ongoing effort to find nests to eliminate them. Asian giant hornets, an invasive pest not native to the U.S., are the world’s largest hornet and a predator of honey bees and other insects,” the department said in a statement.
Since July, the state agriculture department has been providing trapping instructions to citizen scientists so that they can set up their own traps to catch hornets. The department warned that Asian giant hornets cannot be caught using commercially available wasp and hornet traps since the holes in these traps are too small for the murder hornets to get inside.
Although the number of people killed annually by the murder hornets is on the lower side (around 60 per year), caution is recommended when dealing with these insects. Their venom contains a neurotoxin called mandaratoxin.
A single sting from a hornet does not contain the necessary quantity of mandaratoxin to cause death. However, if stung multiple times, a person’s life can be at risk. Their stings can also cause tissue death, swelling, and severe pain.
Dealing with murder hornets
These hornets are not aggressive by nature. If you do not disturb them, they will usually not bother you. As such, if you see an Asian giant hornet nest, avoid approaching it on your own. Contact a professional pest control service and let them handle the job.
Blanket spraying of pesticides should be avoided. Though such a move might affect the hornets, it will also negatively impact other harmless insects like butterflies. Some people can experience an allergic reaction when stung by hornets. Hence, if hornet nests are nearby, such people are advised to carry an epinephrine auto-injector with them.