Murder hornet escapes after being captured by scientists

Some 18 Asian hornets have been found in Washington since they were first spotted last year

Matt Mathers
Wednesday 14 October 2020 15:29 BST
Asian hornets are an invasive species that can decimate entire hives of bees
Asian hornets are an invasive species that can decimate entire hives of bees

Researchers have lost track of a second Asian 'murder hornet' that was fitted with a GPS device in the hope of finding and destroying its nest.

Scientists at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) last week captured a live hornet and used dental floss to attach a tracker to its body.

They were able to track the hornet after it was released back into the wild, with the tracker said to be working "quite well".

But the researchers later lost contact with the insect after it flew into a heavily vegetated area and disappeared from their radar.

"We did get an initial direction of the flight," said Sven Spichiger, WSDA's managing entomologist. "[But] this one was a lot feistier".

A total of 18 Asian hornets, which are not native to North America, have been found in the state since they were first seen last year near the US Canadian border, the agriculture department said.

It is the second time in a matter of weeks that one of the insects has evaded researchers.

Officials earlier in the month reported trying to glue a radio tag to another live hornet so they could follow it back to its nest, but the glue did not dry fast enough.  

The radio tag fell off and the hornet ultimately could not fly.

The Asian giant hornet — the world’s largest at 2 inches (5 centimetres) — is an invasive species that can kill entire hives of honeybees and deliver painful stings to humans.  

Farmers in the northwestern US depend on those honey bees to pollinate many crops, including raspberries and blueberries.

Despite their nickname, the hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asia, and experts say it is probably far less.  

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 the 'murder' hornets is their devastating attacks on honeybee hives, and the time of year when they attack those hives is nearing, Spichiger said. He called it the “slaughter phase.”

Associated Press contributed to this report

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