Since the first Asian giant hornets appeared in the US, scientists have been working double-time to track them to their source and wipe them out. The so-called "murder hornets" are the largest species of hornet in the world and could wreak havoc on local ecosystems. After a few failed attempts to track captured hornets back to a nest, researchers located the first known nest in the United States. That nest has been destroyed, but researchers worry that queens may have escaped.
The nest was found in Whatcom County, Washington, near the border with Canada back in October. Inside the nest they found nearly 500 hornets, 76 of them queens and 108 pupae that were believed to be queens. Researchers note that all of the queens were virgin queens, who had not yet left the nest to start their own colony. Signs inside the basketball-sized hive seemed to relieve researchers, who noted that they got to the nest just in time.
"We got there just in the nick of time," Washington Department of Agriculture entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger said.
In spite of that, researchers worry that more hornets might still be in Washington. They plan to continue to track the insects into the foreseeable future.
"We do believe there are additional nests," Spichiger explained during a press conference this week.
Though murder hornets have a frightening name, they are mostly a threat to other flying insects. The hornet's murderous nature largely refers to the way they treat honeybees. The hornets can wipe out entire hives in hours, producing a knock-on effect in the local food chain.