'Murder Hornet' Nest of Over 1,500 Insects Destroyed Near Washington State–Canada Border

Officials from the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that they destroyed an Asian giant hornet nest after it was reported by a resident earlier this month.

The nest was eradicated on Wednesday, the WSDA said in a statement. More than 1,500 hornets in various stages of development were found inside.

Asian giant hornets, better known as "murder hornets" for their menacing size, captured the internet's curiosity when they were first sighted in the U.S. in 2020. It's the largest species of hornet in the world and perhaps feared most by apiarists for their potential to wipe out honeybee hives.

The part of the tree housing the next was removed by WSDA experts and sent to Washing State University Extension in Bellingham for further analysis.

"While we are glad to have found and eradicated this nest so early in the season, this detection proves how important public reporting continues to be," said Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist. "We expect there are more nests out there and, like this one, we hope to find them before they can produce new queens."

Apiarist Murder Hornets
Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. Above, Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, displays a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest on October 24, 2020, in Blaine, Washington. ELAINE THOMPSON/POOL/AFP/Getty Images

For more reporting from Associated Press, see below.

The nest was located in the base of a dead alder tree in rural Whatcom County, about 2 miles from a nest the agency eradicated last October and about one-quarter mile from where a resident reported a live sighting of an Asian giant hornet on August 11. The site is about one-quarter mile from the Canadian border.

The Asian giant hornets are sometimes called murder hornets because they prey on other bees.

Asian giant hornets are the world's largest hornet and are not native to North America. They prey on honeybees and other insects. They can conduct mass attacks on honeybee hives, destroying the hive in a matter of hours. The hornets were first detected in the United States in 2019 when a hornet was reported in Whatcom County.

The 2-inch-long invasive insects pose a threat to honeybees and native hornet species. While not particularly aggressive toward humans, their sting is extremely painful and repeated stings, though rare, can kill.

State workers in protective clothing began the eradication Wednesday by vacuuming 113 worker hornets from the nest. Then the team began removing bark and decayed wood near the base of the alder tree. Removing the wood revealed that the hornets had excavated the interior of the tree to make room for the nest, which consisted of nine layers of comb.

Asian Giant Hornet
Authorities say they've found the first Asian giant hornet nest of 2021 in a rural area east of Blaine. Above, a Washington state Department of Agriculture worker holds two of the dozens of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a tree in Blaine, Washington. Elaine Thompson, File/AP Photo