Murder hornets: nest of 1,500 destroyed in US

Asian giant hornet’s sting is extremely painful and repeated stings can kill

Murder hornets prey on honeybees and other insects and can conduct mass attacks on the hives of smaller bees

Murder hornets prey on honeybees and other insects and can conduct mass attacks on the hives of smaller bees


Officials in Washington state said they had destroyed the first “murder hornet” nest of the season, which was located near the town of Blaine along the Canadian border.

The Washington state department of agriculture (WSDA) said it eradicated the Asian giant hornet nest on Wednesday.

The nest was located in the base of a dead alder tree in rural Whatcom county, about 2 miles from a nest the agency eradicated last October and about one-quarter mile from where a resident reported a live sighting of an Asian giant hornet on August 11th.

The site is about one-quarter mile from the Canadian border.

The Asian giant hornets are sometimes called murder hornets because they prey on other insects, including honeybees.

They are the world’s largest hornet and are not native to North America. They prey on honeybees and other insects and can conduct mass attacks on the hives of smaller bees, who are more or less defenceless against the recently invaded species, destroying the hive in a matter of hours.

The hornets were first detected in the United States in 2019 when a hornet was reported in Whatcom county.

The 2in-long insects pose a threat to honeybees and native hornet species. While not particularly aggressive toward humans, their sting is extremely painful and repeated stings, though rare, can kill.


State workers in protective clothing began the eradication Wednesday by vacuuming 113 worker hornets from the nest.

Then the team began removing bark and decayed wood near the base of the alder tree.

Removing the wood revealed that the hornets had excavated the interior of the tree to make room for the nest, which consisted of nine layers of comb.

The portion of the tree with the nest was cut and transported to Washington State University extension in Bellingham for further analysis. The nest itself had nearly 1,500 hornets in various stages of development.

“While we are glad to have found and eradicated this nest so early in the season, this detection proves how important public reporting continues to be,” said Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist who is leading the fight to kill the hornets. “We expect there are more nests out there and, like this one, we hope to find them before they can produce new queens.”

Last year, the examination of the first known murder hornet nest to be removed in the US revealed 500 live specimens in various stages of development.

Among them were nearly 200 queens that had the potential to start their own nests, Spichiger said at the time.

Homemade trap

Meanwhile, in northern France, a beekeeper who was sick of his hives being invaded by murder hornets, which have been present in France for much longer, apparently arriving in 2004, devised a homemade trap for the larger insects.

In 2016 Brittany beekeeper Denis Jaffre came up with a device with a one-way mechanism like a lobster pot to catch the hornets, made from a wooden wine crate and metal mesh.

His traps are now 3D-printed in plastic. After receiving a French inventors prize in 2018, Mr Jaffre started making the traps in bulk. Demand is so high he has had to stop taking orders to catch up.

He employs six staff and ships to several European countries.

Attracted by a sugary bait, the hornets get in through a one-way funnel on the contraption and once inside they cannot get out, while smaller insects can escape quickly through small holes in the walls.

“If you don’t set up traps, you see the hornets fly in front of the beehive entrance, they catch a bee and they fly away with it to go and cut it into pieces somewhere else,” he said.

“It is very hard when you see that all day long,” said fellow beekeeper Christian Petit, one of the first to try out Mr Jaffre’s trap prototypes.

Mr Jaffre, who also removes hornet nests in homes and gardens, said that while destroying the nests prevents accidents, it does little to stop the spread of the insect.

He said the only way to control the hornets would be by systematic trapping all over the country, with local government support.–Guardian