Scientists at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) have found the first Asian giant hornet nest in the USA. They first intended to eradicate the nest on Friday, but poor weather forced them to delay the operation until Saturday.

Their statement announced that the nest was discovered after 4 live hornets were found in 2 separate traps on October 21 and October 22. Radio trackers were attached to 3 of the hornets by entomologists, and one led the scientists to the nest.

The press still refers to these aggressive bee-killing insects as ‘murder hornets’ although this has been labeled a sensationalistic phrase by the scientific community.

Here is a 1:24-minute video taken by KING 5 of the operation as it unfolded:



Last Friday the WSDA made a statement that entomologists discovered the nest on a property in Blaine, a small town on the US side of the border with Canada. These hornets have also been sighted in British Columbia, Canada.

The hornet nest was inside a tree cavity and the team watched dozens of hornets coming and going from the tree.

These invasive pests were first spotted in the US in December 2019, with two verified sightings near the same town of Blaine and then further sightings throughout the year in Washington state. In July 2020, the WSDA announced the capture of the first male Asian giant hornet by using a bottle trap near Custer, Whatcom County. It was the first one ever seen in the US.

The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is non-native to the USA and is considered the world’s largest hornet at two inches long. It is an aggressive predator of honeybees and other insects, decapitating bees and feeding their larvae to their own young. A few Asian giant hornets can kill a whole beehive in a few hours. The potent neurotoxin in their sting can also be fatal to some humans, delivering nearly seven times more venom than a honey bee, and they can sting multiple times. Their sting can penetrate most beekeeper suits.

This 15:30-minute video by WSDAgov shows the Asian giant hornets coming and going to their tree nest at Blaine:



The initial intention of the agriculture department was to find and eradicate the hornets’ nest in September, before new queens emerge and mate, and this would have helped to prevent the spread of the invasive species.

Their sting can cause severe pain, swelling, necrosis and even death (although rare) and their sting is much more dangerous than the sting of local bees or wasps. WSDA advises that although the hornets are not usually aggressive to people, they can pose a health threat.

Thanks to the assistance of private citizens and citizen scientists, the WSDA has set over 1,400 traps throughout Washington state in the hopes of slowing the spread of the hornets.

It is vital to stop the spread of the species as swiftly as possible. If they become established in the greater Washington area, there will be negative impacts on the economy, the environment and public health according to the WSDA.