Close to 200 Queen Murder Hornets in Wash. Nest Killed 'In the Nick of Time,' Scientist Says

Joelle Goldstein
·3 min read

WSDA A new Asian giant hornet ready to emerge

Scientists said they destroyed close to 200 queen murder hornets after discovering a large nest in Washington.

Officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced in a press release on Tuesday that the nest they found late last month ultimately contained more than 500 Asian giant hornet specimens in various stages of development.

Among those included 76 queens, which had the potential to start a new colony over the next year, and 108 capped cells with pupae, which were believed to be pupae of new virgin queens, according to the press release.

There were also six combs, 776 cells, six unhatched eggs, 190 larvae, 112 workers and nine drones, which are also known as male hornets, the WSDA said.

"We got there just in the nick of time," Sven-Erik Spichiger, an entomologist helping kill the murder hornets, said in a statement, according to CBS News.

WSDA Pupae in various stages of development taken from the nest

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The insect, also known as Vespa mandarinia, is considered to be the world's largest species of hornet, according to the WSDA.

They typically invade honey bee hives and destroy them from the inside out in a matter of hours by decapitating the bees and feeding surviving larvae to their own young, the WSDA said.

Scientists believe the hornets do not generally attack people or pets but can do so if they feel threatened, writing in the press release, "Their stinger is longer than that of a honeybee and their venom is more toxic. They can also sting repeatedly."

Seth Truscott, of the college of agricultural, human and natural resource sciences at Washington State University, previously told WSU Insider, "Their stings are big and painful, with a potent neurotoxin. Multiple stings can kill humans, even if they are not allergic."

On Oct. 22, researchers revealed they had found the murder hornet nest in Blaine, Washington, a city that lies on the U.S.-Canada border, and planned to eradicate the nest by setting traps.

Days later, the WSDA announced on Facebook they had successfully taken down the tree and removed the section with the nest alongside a video of two large hornets crawling around in a plastic container.

According to the WSDA's most recent press release, the nest was located about 8.3 feet high in the tree and measured in at 14 inches long and 8 to 9 inches wide.

"Despite multiple applications of carbon dioxide, removal of the workers, and storage in a cold facility, most of the specimens were still alive when the nest was opened," the press release states.

In the wake of successfully destroying the species, the WSDA said they plan to continue setting traps through Thanksgiving, and for at least three more years, to ensure that the area is free of them "but will likely only track worker hornets."

Getty Murder hornet

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Their hope is to completely "eradicate Asian giant hornets from the Pacific Northwest" and prevent the insects "from gaining a permanent foothold here," according to the press release.

In the event that the species manages to establish itself in Washington and surrounding areas, the WSDA previously said it will create "negative impacts on the environment, economy, and public health."

Officials are still unaware of how the insect arrived stateside, according to the Associated Press.