Murder hornets are doing their best to take back the apocalyptic spotlight in 2020, as officials in the state of Washington are apparently on the hunt for a Asian giant hornet nest before the invasive species can get a grip on life in America.
For at least a few days, murder hornets seemed to be the next great American catastrophe as the giant flying insects reportedly had been spotted on the North American continent for the first time. The invasive species is a huge threat to ordinary-sized bees and hornets, as it’s a terrifying predatory insect that can — as the name suggests, although it’s rare — kill humans if stung.
Given the state of everything else in the world, though, news of the murder hornets’ inevitable descent on America was barely a blip on the meme radar when the report that they had been spotted on the West coast made its way around the internet back in May. But Friday gave us a report from the Washington State Department of Agriculture that confirmed its employees had trapped an Asian giant hornet and were working to locate more of the huge predators:
The hornet was found in a WSDA trap set near Birch Bay in Whatcom County. WSDA trappers checked the bottle trap on July 14 and submitted the contents for processing at WSDA’s entomology lab. The hornet was identified during processing on July 29. This was the first hornet to be detected in a trap, rather than found in the environment as the state’s five previous confirmed sightings were.
“This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work,” Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the department said. “But it also means we have work to do.”
In fact, the hunt is on for the nest where that hornet was from, which officials are hoping to find before more queens can breed and branch out to make new colonies. The next step in this murder hornet hunt is far more exciting: using special traps and infrared cameras to get the hornets alive, then tag them so they can follow the little buggers back to their home to destroy it once and for all:
WSDA hopes to find and destroy the nest by mid-September before the colony would begin creating new reproducing queens and drones. Until that time, the colony will only contain the queen and worker Asian giant hornets. Destroying the nest before new queens emerge and mate will prevent the spread of this invasive pest.
It’s odd to imagine that the gigantic hornet that can absolutely kill you isn’t as biologically significant as the one hiding away in said nest, but it’s true. If the murder hornet manhunt is successful before the fall, there’s a chance the species’ spread in North American can be slowed significantly. So many threats to existence, so little time.