Scientists nab TWO 'murder hornet' queens on return trip to clear out Washington state hive

SCIENTISTS who went to clear out the first hive of “murder hornets” found in the United States found two queens in the nest.

Entomologists recently found the hive of terrifying giant wasps in Blaine, north of Seattle, prompting a huge extraction operation.

A team of scientists wearing protective suits vacuumed out 85 hornets from the nest last Saturday, according to a press release from the Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Chris Looney, a WSDA entomologist who was tasked with vacuuming up the hornets, told The Guardian that the hornets “were docile.”

“It was cold so they were docile, so between their slowness and the protective gear no one was hurt,” he said.

Looney said that the giant wasps can also squirt venom, which he saw first-hand.

“I was more worried about getting permanent nerve damage in the eye from the squirted venom than being stung,” Looney told the outlet.

The brave members of the agencies Pest Program returned on Wednesday to remove a portion of the tree where the wicked wasps had been nesting for further analysis.

“As we were cutting it down yesterday, two queens emerged from the tree. They could be two virgin queens or one virgin queen and the queen that actually started the nest,” said Karla Salp, a spokesperson for the agency.

She continued: “We do not know if they were both virgin queens or not. That’s something we’re looking into over the next several days.”

After removing the section of the tree with the nest in it and wrapping it in cellophane, the agency took it to the Washington State University Puyallup Research and Extension Center and kept it in a walk-in cooler to make any of the hornets still alive less mobile.

On Thursday, the scientists partially removed the cellophane covering the log and pumped carbon dioxide into the tree to prepare to split the log and analyze the nest’s contents.

Researchers split the log down its center using a wedge and hammer “to crack it open like a nut,” Salp said.

“Once it opened, then we started removing Asian giant hornets that were still in the nest. They appeared, at least some of them, alive,” she said.

Scientists also found the “comb” in the nest with “quite a bit of larvae.” 

Scientists do not have an exact number yet of how many of the Asian giant hornets, including queens, have been recovered from the nest.

Entomologists are working to further examine the contents from the tree, measuring the hornets to determine how many queens may have been produced by the nest.

“That may give us some sort of idea whether some queens had already left the nest or not,” Salp said.

The world's largest hornet, at 2 inches, the apex predator can kill an entire honey bee hive in just hours and pose another threat to the ecosystem if they become established over several years.

For humans, Asian murder hornets can kill humans with a single excruciating sting.

In Japan, the hornet's native country, the insects kill around 50 people each year.

Experts are advising people to use caution near the insects and not attempt to remove or eradicate nests themselves.

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