You might even call the operation a “sting,” as it took a bit of subterfuge to finally capture the giant Asian hornet queens. Entomologists trapped three hornet drones last week, then tagged them with radio trackers and followed them to their nest.
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The nest was located inside a tree in Blaine, Washington, just south of the border with British Columbia.
State wildlife officials wrapped the tree in plastic and vacuumed the colony on October 24, then knocked the tree upside down on Wednesday to unearth the queen from her hiding place.
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Scientists remove 98 deadly hornets from Washington state nest near BC border
Entomologists actually found two queens inside the nest, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The queens were either two “virgins” preparing to launch out and found their own colonies, or a virgin and an old queen who could have spawned the nest.
Officials shared a video of the captured queens on Wednesday. The video shows the two black and yellow thumb-sized behemoths crawling in separate glass vials.
Entomologists have captured 13 live hornets in addition to the queens. They also killed 85 others by vacuuming them with high-tech vacuums.
The Asian giant hornets are native to China and Japan, but they started to spread in North America last year, raising concerns that they could decimate vulnerable honey bee hives in the United States and Canada. The first were spotted near Nanaimo, British Columbia, in August 2019.
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The bugs were dubbed “murderous hornets” earlier this year, and the name is well deserved. A handful of armored hornets can wipe out an entire colony of bees in an afternoon, slaughtering the bees one by one while avoiding hundreds of stings. The hornets then capture the bee’s young and bring them back to the nest to feed.
The Asian giant hornet has died on the wings for bees in North America
Killer hornets are relatively huge compared to the bees they feed on. Each is four to five centimeters (1.5 to 2 inches) long and has a poisonous stinger that can cause excruciating pain in humans. A victim described the bite as a “burning bug” earlier this year.
Their heads are completely yellow with two large black eyes. Their bodies are black and their abdomens are striped with black and yellow.
Hornets do not pose a major threat to humans, despite their ominous nickname. They are unlikely to bite unless they sense the nest is threatened; dozens of people die each year in Asia after falling on an unprotected nest.
Washington entomologists wore state-of-the-art coveralls to combat hornets this week. Their puffy white outfits looked like a cross between a spacesuit and a hazmat suit, and were designed to protect them from swarms of stinging murderous hornets.
Wildlife officials hail the operation as a good first step in the fight against the Asian giant hornet.
US and Canadian officials have been setting hornet traps along the west coast since last year.
Why could the arrival of the “deadly hornet” in North America pose a danger to bees?
The first confirmed nest in Canada was destroyed last fall on Vancouver Island.
Anyone who sees any of the Asian giant hornets in British Columbia is urged to immediately contact the Invasive Species Council of BC at 1-888-933-3722, or submit information on their website.
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