Oct. 4 (UPI) — The Washington State Department of Agriculture is desperately looking to track down a nest of giant Asian hornets before they go into what scientists call “the slaughter phase.”
Six giant Asian hornets have been caught, trapped or reported since Sept. 21 in Washington state, according to agriculture officials.
Sven-Erik Spichiger, an entomologist with the agriculture department, said officials believe they are dealing with a nest and that it’s critical that scientists find and destroy it before the slaughter phase or before the insects reproduce enough to build new nests.
The hornets, sometimes dubbed “murder hornets” because they prey on other insects — including honeybees, which are critical to agriculture in the state — were first spotted in the United States last year.
“Asian giant hornets this time of year start going into what we call the slaughter phase,” Spichiger said during a news conference Friday. “They will visit apiaries, basically mark a hive, attack it in force, removing every bee from the hive, decapitating them, killing all of the workers and then spending the next few days harvesting the brood and the pupae out of the hive as a food source.”
The first of the recent sightings occurred two weeks ago when a landowner in Whatcom County, near the Canadian border, caught two hornets.
On Sept. 30 a scientist trapped one hornet alive — a first for the Department of Agriculture.