By attaching a tiny tracker on a hornet and tracking it to a tree in Blaine, Wash., experts have successfully destroyed a nest full of the horrible insects. This was the second nest found in America after Canadian officials destroyed one in 2019 near a public footpath. Unfortunately, experts say there could be more.
Since first appearing in 2019, hundreds of giant hornets have turned up in the region. A previous attempt to track a hornet worker to its nest failed after the glue used to stick the tracker gummed up the insect’s wings.
This time, the tracking plan worked. The hornet led the experts to a nest around three meters up in a hollow tree trunk. The team of experts was prepared for the worst and wore protective suits to extract the insects. Fortunately, the cold weather made the hornets docile. After stuffing foam into the tree above and below the nest, the team wrapped the tree in plastic to prevent hornets from escaping.
The professionals vacuumed the hornets from the nest and pumped in carbon dioxide gas to stun and kill any remaining. Later, officials planned to cut down the tree and examine the nest to see if the previous nests had already hatched. This usually happens during mid-to-late October.
This eradication effort is urgent as these “murder hornets” have killed thousands of honeybees. Asian giant hornets thrive where it’s mild and rainy. Regions like the East Coast may potentially support the insects, but it’s unlikely the insects could fly that far on their own.
The importance of mapping efforts
“We really don’t know anything about how this species spreads. That’s the kind of maddening lack of information that makes responding to this species so challenging,” said Chris Looney, an entomologist who works for Washington’s agriculture department. Details regarding how fast the insects can fly and how their preference for underground nests affects their ability to spread are unknown, he explained.
Murder hornets thrive in places with Asian weather conditions
Based on their regions of origin, hornets prefer weather conditions in places similar to South Korea, Japan, China, and several other East Asian countries. Chris Looney and his colleagues mapped regions of the United States where the hornets may be able to survive. Then, the researchers traced the insects’ spread using information on how the Asian giant hornet’s relative, V. velutina, had invaded Europe. That hornet species spread at an average rate of about 100 kilometers per year.