Officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture have eradicated their second Asian giant hornet nest of the year, but a third nest was spotted nearby. Which, uh oh.
With the first murder hornet of the season spotted on August 11 and the first nest of the year discovered on August 25, we worried that other nests would start to make an unwelcome appearance. Our fears have come true.
This past Saturday, the Washington State Department of Agriculture put out a tweet saying its staff had taken down a second nest and that a third was found nearby. The WSDA is currently “working on plans for eradicating” the third nest, while advising that more updates should be expected in the coming weeks.
Invasive murder hornets (Vespa mandarinia) are a growing headache, as they pose a threat to the environment and human life.
Measuring 2 inches (5 cm) in length, murder hornets can destroy an entire honeybee hive in just a few hours. The gigantic hornets feed on larvae after decapitating mature honeybees with their spiked mandibles, and then—in a truly macabre display—they feed these severed thoraxes to their own young. Conservationists are desperately trying to curb the spread of murder hornets, which also like to gorge on paper wasps, beetles, yellowjackets, dragonflies, other hornets, moths, and mantises. The attacks on bees are particularly problematic owing to bees’ importance as pollinators, and because bees already have a lot working against them, such as diseases, parasites, and pesticides.
Murder hornets also pose a threat to humans. In Japan, murder hornets kill upwards of 50 people each year. Their stings have been compared to red-hot thumbtacks, and if that’s not enough, they’re known to spit painful venom into eyes.
Nests of this invasive species are tough to spot, as they’re often tucked away in deep forests. The WSDA tags live individuals and then tracks them to their nests. That’s how they spotted the first nest of the season, located less than a mile from the Canadian border in Whatcom County. WSDA staff destroyed the colony by vacuuming 113 worker hornets from the nest, located at the base of a dead alder tree.
WSDA says it’ll continue this work until the end of November, and it’s asking people to report sightings here.