Remember “murder hornets“? You know, the two-inch long wasps that stoked unreasonable fear in people all around the United States.
Well, scientists in the U.S. have located the first nest of the invasive species in Blaine, Wash. and they plan to get rid of it on Saturday, the Associated Press reported. The discovery took weeks and lots of dental floss, which was used to tie tracking devices to three hornets. And it worked; one of the insects led researchers to the location of the nest in a tree.
The nest contains about 100 to 200 hornets and is about the size of a basketball. Though Asian giant hornets aren’t a big threat to humans, they can deliver a painful sting. To protect themselves, workers will wear thick protective suits and face shields, as the hornets can spit painful venom in addition to stinging.
The nest removal team will first fill the tree with foam and encase it with plastic wrap so nothing can escape. To collect the hornets, a tube will suck up them up and then deliver them into a collection chamber. The tree will then be cut down so workers can collect newborn hornets and check if any queen wasps have already fled the nest.
When the invasive species was first discovered in the U.S. in December 2019 near Blaine, they caused quite a stir throughout the country. That was thanks in large part to the nickname, “murder hornets,” and reporting that suggested they could be deadly to humans.
However they usually only cause the deaths of a few dozen people in Asia every year, if that. So perhaps attaching the word “murder” to these wasps raised the temperature too high on the threat they actually pose.
That’s not to say they’re harmless, though. Asian giant hornets do destroy honeybee hives (we rely on honeybees to pollinate one-third of the food we eat in America), and they’re very efficient. So it’s important to eradicate any that can be found. The work will continue even after the one nest is destroyed on Saturday, as researchers believe there could be others nearby.
But now that people are on their trail, hopefully the hornets can be contained, and their real prey — the honeybees — won’t be further threatened.