Image above: a beekeeper with her bees

According to Sven-Erik Spichiger, an entomologist at the Washington Department of Agriculture, the recent destruction of the Asian giant hornet nest happened just in time. 

This was the first nest that was discovered and destroyed in the USA. We blogged about the search for the nest recently, when scientists attached radio trackers to a few hornets that eventually led them to the nest. The nest was smaller than those found in the insect's native Japan. It was over eight feet tall and contained only 776 cells compared to a nest in Japan that could contain as many as 4,000 cells.

Researchers cut the nest out of a tree and took that section to cold storage, where they pumped it full of carbon dioxide. This made it too cold for the hornets to fly.

They opened the nest and, using chopsticks, they picked through and found 76 virgin queens alive inside along with larvae, pupae and workers. In fact, almost everything was still alive inside the nest in various stages of development. That single nest had the ability to produce 200 queens, according to scientists. Roughly 108 were still in their cells inside the nest. The other 76 plus 3 that were found when the tree was taken down, were all put on ice for future study.

This 1:30-minute video by KING 5 shows how the nest eradication went down:



If the nest was not eradicated at that stage, those 200 queens would have probably created 200 more nests. This shows how eradicating every single nest makes a huge difference to how fast this invasive species will spread.

There may be at least three nests in the county according to researchers, and they will continue trying to find them. There is no way for them to know if they got all the hornets with this one successful operation.

The colder it gets, the harder it is for the hornets to fly around. Unfortunately, one of the best chances that scientists have for finding another nest is if there is an active attack on a beehive. Another possibility is that hunters will stumble across a nest and report it. While it is rare, people can be stung by these insects and multiple stings can be deadly.

It is almost a year since the Asian giant hornets were detected in the USA and it is unknown how they arrived from Asia.

Just a few of these deadly hornets can kill tens of thousands of bees within hours, so scientists are concerned for the wellbeing of the honeybee population.

Eradicating this nest was a step in the right direction for these scientists. They are intent on continuing to destroy any more nests in the area until the threat posed by this invasive species is entirely wiped out.