Washington state agriculture crews capture two ‘murder hornet’ queens

Two live Asian giant hornet queens were discovered inside a nest of tree in Whatcom County.

Washington State Department of Agriculture crews discovered the two ‘murder’ hornet queens inside the nest, officials announced on Twitter on Wednesday.

Crews say the hornets have not been determined yet if they are virgin queens, or one virgin queen and one older queen hornet. State crews have also removed the section of the tree with the nest and plan to open it on Thursday.

State entomologists discovered and eradicated the nest on Saturday, Oct. 24th, just a few days after trapping two live hornets and fitting them with radio trackers to track back to their nest.

The nest was found inside a cavity of the tree, found on private property of a residential home in Blaine, WA, according to WSDA.

Related: First Asian giant hornet nest found in Washington

Prior to the discovery, WSDA had spent almost a year searching for the hornets after the first one was detected in December 2019, and the first captured hornet was recorded this July.

For the past several weeks, agriculture crews worked on searching, trapping, and using dental floss to tie tracking devices to Asian giant hornets, which can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but are the biggest threat to honeybees that farmers depend on to pollinate crops.

The nest found in the city of Blaine near the Canadian border is about the size of a basketball and contained an estimated 100 to 200 hornets, according to scientists who announced the find Friday.

Crews wearing the thick protective suits vacuumed the invasive insects from the cavity of a tree into large canisters. The suits prevent the hornets’ 6-millimeter-long stingers from hurting workers, who also wore face shields because the trapped hornets can spit a painful venom into their eyes.

The real threat from Asian giant hornets — which are 2 inches (5 centimeters) long — is their devastating attacks on honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food.

Related: Washington state traps first ‘invasive’ Asian giant hornet

The invasive insect is normally found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries. Washington state and the Canadian province of British Columbia are the only places the hornets have been found on the continent.

The nest was found after the state Agriculture Department trapped some hornets this week and used dental floss to attach radio trackers to some of them.

WSDA says anyone can report a sighting of the hornets to the department by connecting them online at agr.wa.gov/hornets, via email at hornets@agr.wa.gov, or by calling 1-800-443-6684.