Washington state discovers first ‘murder hornet’ nest in US

Scientists have discovered the first nest of murder hornets in the United States and plan to wipe it out Saturday to protect native honeybees, officials in Washington state said.

After weeks of searching, the agency said it found the nest of Asian giant hornets in Blaine, a city north of Seattle near the Canadian border. Bad weather delayed plans to destroy the nest Friday.

The nest was found after a worker for the Washington state Agriculture Department caught two of the large hornets in a trap Wednesday. Two more living hornets were captured in another trap Thursday, the agency said.

The world’s largest hornet at 2 inches (5 centimeters) long, the invasive insects can decimate entire hives of honeybees and deliver painful stings to people. Farmers in the northwestern U.S. depend on those honeybees to pollinate many crops, including raspberries and blueberries.

Despite their nickname and the hype around the insect that has stirred fears in an already bleak year, the 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 kill an average of 62 people a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

The real threat from Asian giant hornets is their devastating attacks on honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food. A small group of the hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in hours.