What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

How officials in Washington state are attempting to eradicate the ‘Murder Hornet’ before it spreads

The Asian giant hornet is an invasive species that poses a grave threat to bees—and even to humans who cross its path. These aggressive hornets will slaughter entire colonies of bees to feed on larvae, and can sting humans through protective beekeeping garb. Officials in Washington state, where the insects were first spotted in the U.S., are trying to eradicate them before they spread to the rest of the country. NewsHour Weekend’s Mori Rothman reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    This month the Washington state Department of Agriculture announced that it would remove hundreds of Asian giant hornet traps in preparation for winter when most of the worker hornets and drones die, and the queens find a place to hibernate.

    The invasive species — also called murder hornets — poses a grave threat to bees, and to humans who cross its path. Officials in Washington state, where an Asian giant hornet was first spotted in 2019, have been trying to eradicate them before they spread to the rest of the country. NewsHour Weekend's Mori Rothman reports.

  • Mori Rothman:

    Ruthie Danielsen lives in Birch Bay, Washington, on the border between Washington state and Canada along with her dogs, cats, goats and most recently bees.

  • Ruthie Danielson:

    I saw this documentary and it was all about colony collapse disorder. Bees by the droves were just disappearing from the hives and they didn't know why.

  • Mori Rothman:

    Danielsen decided to try and become part of the solution to the problem. She now has six hives, all with names.

  • Ruthie Danielsen:

    That's Cookie, that's Cookie 2.

  • Mori Rothman:

    And like many beekeepers, she says she's grown fond of her tiny companions.

  • Ruthie Danielsen:

    Each queen and her court and her offspring have a different, just a different personality. And sometimes they're real friendly. Sometimes you get queens where the bees are very upset. I mean the bees will look up at you and they won't get really excited and they, there's a hum that the hive will make when they're getting upset.

  • Mori Rothman:

    But in addition to concerns of colony collapse, last year beekeepers like Danielsen discovered another threat to their hives. An Asian Giant Hornet, sometimes called the Murder Hornet, was found in Washington State. The hornet made headlines partly due to its alarming size of nearly two inches and ability to sting through most beekeeper suits with its quarter inch stinger, and because in Japan the Asian Giant Hornet kills up to 50 people a year. But the hornet's main prey is the honeybee. In the fall it goes through what's known as a "slaughter phase" during which groups of hornets attack beehives, decapitating all of the adult bees and harvesting their larvae for food.

  • Ruthie Danielsen:

    My bees are part of my family. It's just that. And so when the Asian Giant Hornet. I mean, to completely decapitate a hive would have just been horrible.

  • Jenni Cena:

    Just make sure it doesn't have any Asian giant hornets in there.

  • Mori Rothman:

    Jenni Cena works for Washington State's Department of Agriculture and has been setting traps, baited with rice wine vinegar and orange juice, for the Asian Giant Hornet. Cena says the department set over nine hundred traps this year. So far 13 Asian Giant Hornets have been caught in the traps.

  • Jenni Cena:

    The idea with the live traps was that we'd actually catch a live Asian giant Hornet, specifically a worker, and that we'd actually put a tracker on them.

  • Mori Rothman:

    In October the department tracked an Asian Giant Hornet back to a nest and a team wearing heavy protective suits extracted it. There were more than 500 Asian Giant Hornets in the nest.

    Cena says the danger posed to the American honeybee population and the agricultural industry that depends on honeybees is a major concern.

  • Jenni Cena:

    Both wheat and apples in Washington are both billion-dollar industries. And they employ a lot of individuals. Apples, pears, apricots, all of those products actually use honeybees to pollinate them. And a lot of our honeybees actually start down in California on our almonds and worked their way up the coast and all the way over to the East Coast.

  • Mori Rothman:

    According to an estimate in the journal, Pest Management Science, Asian Giant Hornets could cause millions of dollars of damage to agriculture if they spread across the country.

    Ruthie Danielsen is doing her part to make sure that doesn't happen, she has set traps of her own near her hives.

  • Ruthie Danielson:

    I still have my traps up as long as it's not freezing and I'll keep re-baiting my traps every week.

Listen to this Segment