Scientists Hit Murder-Hornet Motherlode

Uh oh. Photo: ELAINE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Ominous news out of Washington State, where the murder hornets have been expanding their dominion over the past 12-ish months. On Saturday, entomologists with the local Department of Agriculture finally eliminated their first murder-hornet nest, a victory (as Earther points out, “slaughter phase” is upon us) that also, unfortunately, confirms the notion that this invasive species has been making itself at home in part of the northwestern United States.

Native to Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan, Asian giant hornets first surfaced on the West Coast in late 2019, the horrible, thumb-size insects ravaging beehives in Washington. Although these nightmare bugs may kill as many as 50 people annually in Japan, they are really in it for the bees: A murder hornet in annihilation mode can reportedly plow throw 40 honeybees per minute, decapitating their bodies to feed on the thoraxes, and leaving a mess of severed heads in their wake. Murder hornets also achieve unreasonable sizes — up to two inches, or about twice as long as a regular hornet, which (as you can see here) is just way too big — and pose a particular problem for our ailing bee populations, as well as any human that gets in the way of their knifelike stings.

Before last year, murder hornets had never been spotted in the U.S., and cold winter temps initially made it difficult to determine just how far they had spread. In August and September (apparently, mating season for murder hornets), new sightings came trickling in from Washington, and on Thursday, extensive trapping efforts proved fruitful when scientists located a nest in Blaine. According to the WSDA, researchers were able to attach radio trackers to three trapped specimen, one of which led them straight to the motherlode. On Saturday, after observing “dozens of the hornets … entering and exiting,” WSDA entomologists removed the nest, vacuuming a bunch of these beasts out of a tree.

More details about their process will reportedly be released at a press conference on Monday. Still, the discovery comes just as the murder hornets are poised to enter their annual “slaughter phase,” so, good timing WSDA. As entomologist Sven Spichiger recently put it to the New York Times: “This is the season to be on guard.”

Scientists Hit Murder Hornet Motherlode