They’re called “murder hornets” because they murder bees to eat them, their pupae and their larvae, thereby threatening to also “murder” the bee business and many major pollen crops in the U.S. When they showed up in Washington state, entomologists with the state Department of Agriculture captured four Asian giant hornets alive and managed to tie tracking devices on them with dental floss. One of those led them to the nest in Blaine, near the Canadian border, where they captured or killed 98 hornets. Is this a cause for celebration with bottles of honey-infused champagne?
“While this is certainly a morale boost, this is only the start of our work to hopefully prevent the Asian giant hornet from gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest. We suspect there may be more nests in Whatcom County.”
Capturing that enthusiasm in a net is managing entomologist Sven Spichiger with the Washington Department of Agriculture, who told KOMO News that the nest destruction over the weekend was just the first step – all indications show there are more nests in the area. And beyond?
“We live on the ‘Murder Hornet’ Highway. We were like. ‘Oh my gosh…it’s really exciting and scary and crazy’.”
The basketball-sized nest (video of it here) was found on the “Murder Hornet Highway” property of Josie Shelton and her family, where entomologists dressed in protective gear found the tree, wrapped it in plastic except for one opening to the nest, which was 10 feet off the ground. They then shoved a vacuum in the hole and sucked the murder hornets out, occasionally hitting the tree with sticks to agitate them. The tree was then sprayed with carbon dioxide to kill any lingerers, sealed with foam, wrapped in more plastic, cut down and inspected for more hornets, young hornets or evidence of more queens having left the nest.
You may ask: All that work for 90 hornets? It’s estimated that just a few of the 2-inch killers can completely wipe out a hive of 30,000 honeybees in minutes. That’s why the Department of Agriculture will be setting traps, searching and destroying until at least November or whenever winter shuts the murder hornets down until spring.
“It’s been really interesting to be a part of this and see what’s it’s all about. It’s been really cool.”
Josie Shelton sounds almost like she had fun. Will she feel the same way if more Asian giant hornets are found on her Murder Hornet Highway and the government decides to pave it over?