Experts in Washington discovered a huge Asian giant hornets nest to discover more than 500 of the insects inside. More than 70 of these were queens, all of which have the potential to move on and start a new nest elsewhere.
The Asian giant hornet is, as the name suggests, from Asia.
The two-inch long insects, scientifically known as Vespa velutina, kill an average of 50 people a year.
So strong is the sting of a murder hornet, and packed with so much venom, a person can die within minutes of being stung, if they are allergic.
The first sightings in the US were recorded in November 2019, and now there are signs that the insects are spreading across the States.
A nest which was found in a tree in the state of Washington was about 14-inches long and eight to nine inches wide, but packed with more than 500 hornets.
Of these, 76 were queens, with all but one of them being virgin queens.
Virgin queens emerge from the nest, mate, then move on to begin another colony.
Some 112 of the insects were workers while there were nine drones, which emerge before the new queen arrives.
According to a statement from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA): “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.”
Sven-Erik Spichiger, entomologist, who is leading the charge against the invasive species, told ABC: “As far as we can tell, we got there just in time.
“We know from the literature that a small percentage of these will go on to form colonies next year, should they have been given the chance to escape.
“From accounts we have, we’re very close to having the majority of [the queen bees], but I can’t give you an absolute, certainly, that we got every single one from the nest.”
There is now a huge effort to halt the spread of Asian giant hornets before they spread across the rest of the US.
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WSDA said: “WSDA will continue trapping through at least Thanksgiving and possibly beyond, but will likely only track worker hornets.
“Our entomologists will not, for example, track new queens if any are captured as they are unlikely to return to a nest, but instead will attempt to locate a mate.
“Even if no other hornets were to be found, WSDA will continue to trap for at least three more years to demonstrate the area is free from Asian giant hornets.
“WSDA’s Pest Program still hopes to eradicate Asian giant hornets from the Pacific Northwest in cooperation with our neighbors to the north in Canada.
“The effort will take require international cooperation, research for better detection tools, and the continued work of vigilant observers from the public to prevent Asian giant hornets from gaining a permanent foothold here.”
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