‘Mur­der hor­nets’ vac­u­umed fromWash. nest

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - NA­TION & WORLD -

BLAINE, Wash.— Heav­ily pro­tected crews in­Wash­ing­ton state worked Satur­day to de­stroy the first nest of so-called mur­der hor­nets dis­cov­ered in the United States.

Th­es­tateA­gri­cul­ture Depart­ment had spent weeks search­ing, trap­ping and us­ing den­tal floss to tie track­ing de­vices to Asian gi­ant hor­nets, which can de­liver painful st­ings to peo­ple and spit venom but are the big­gest threat to hon­ey­bees that farm­ers de­pend on to pol­li­nate crops.

The nest found in the city of Blaine near the Cana­dian bor­der is about the size of a bas­ket­ball and con­tained an es­ti­mated 100 to 200 hor­nets, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists who an­nounced the find Fri­day.

Crewswear­ing thick­pro­tec­tive suits vac­u­umed the in­va­sive in­sects from the cav­ity of a tree into can­is­ters Satur­day. The suits pre­vent the hor­nets’ 6-mil­lime­ter­long stingers from hurt­ing work­ers, whoal­sowore face shields be­cause the trapped hor­nets can spit a painful venom.

The tree will be cut down to ex­tract new­born hor­nets and learn if any queens have left the hive, sci­en­tists said. Of­fi­cials will keep search­ing for more nests in the area.

De­spite their nick­name and the hype that has stirred fears, the world’s largest hor­nets kill at most a few dozen peo­ple a year in Asian coun­tries, and ex­perts say it is prob­a­bly far less. Mean­while, hor­nets, wasps and bees typ­i­cally found in the United States kil­lanaver­age of62peo­ple a year, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Prevention has said.

The real threat from Asian gi­ant hor­nets — which are 2 inches long— is their dev­as­tat­ing at­tacks on hon­ey­bees, which are al­ready un­der siege from prob­lems like dis­eases, pes­ti­cides and loss of food.

Wash­ing­ton state and Bri­tish Columbia are the only places the hor­net­shave been found on the con­ti­nent.

ELAINE THOMP­SON/AP

A pro­tected en­to­mol­o­gist shows a can­is­ter of so-called mur­der hor­nets sucked Satur­day from aWash­ing­ton tree.

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