Keeping Murder Hornets at Bay

Murder hornets
Scientists remove a nest of Asian giant hornets in Washington State.
Photo Credit: WSDA

Asian Giant Hornets

The first nest of Asian giant hornets (murder hornets) in the United States in 2021 was eradicated on August 25 in Washington State. A resident noticed a live murder hornet on August 11, and experts from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture placed tracking devices on three of the hornets to find the nest. (That must have been challenging)!

Scientist don't know exactly how the Asian giant hornets arrived here. Like many invasive species, the hornets may have traveled  on container ships.

First found in the U.S and Canada in December 2019, murder hornets (Vespa mandarinia) are the largest hornet species in the world. Their stinger is longer than most hornets' and they can sting through standard beekeeping attire. Their venom is more toxic and they can sting more than once. 

Murder hornets don't generally attack humans unless their nest is threatened or they're handled. The sting is extremely painful and can cause tissue damage and organ damage. Death can result in extreme cases or for those allergic to stings.

However, that is not why they're called murder hornets. The Asian giant hornet attacks and kills honeybees, decapitating the gentle pollinators and destroying an entire hive in a matter of hours. Afterwards, they take over the hive. 

Honeybees are critical for pollination for food production.  If these Asian giant hornets become established, they could have a devastating effect on the beekeeping industry, the environment, economy and public health. Needless to say, they're a major threat to beekeepers and their hives.

Asian Giant Hornet
Photo Credit: WSDA

Eradicating the Murder Hornets

Finding and eliminating the hornets' nest is no walk in the park. Nest Zero, a 15-minute documentary video traces the arrival of the first murder hornets in the U.S. and Canada and the fight to keep them from spreading. 

Just finding a nest was challenging. A successful method involved attaching a tag to one of the hornets with dental floss. The nest was located in a dead alder tree, and contained nine layers of comb. Once the nest was found, scientists wearing specialized suits vacuumed hornets out of the nest. The nest contained approximately 1500 Asian giant hornets in various stages of development.

Promoting Vigilance

The WSDA, Oregon Department of Agriculture, landowners, beekeepers, and citizens have worked together to keep these pests at bay. 

The WSDA has a Hornet Watch link to report sightings of murder hornets. There's also a Facebook Group where people can report sightings, ask questions and post updated. WSDA's Invasive Hornets website also has a page for frequently asked questions as well as fact sheets for beekeepers, data, tracking information, and an Asian giant hornet Story Map.

Hopefully, with quick action and collaboration we can keep these dangerous hornets from flourishing.


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