According to reports, murder hornets may have been officially eradicated from the United States. The news comes as Washington recorded no sightings of the creatures so far in 2022.
Known as Northern giant hornets or Asian giant hornets, the insects are the largest species of hornet known to man. While they are native to Asia, their presence in the U.S. makes them an invasive species that poses a significant risk to the native ecosystem.
However, scientists are still unsure how exactly the species made its way into the country, though some theorize they may have come from an illegal importation.
Scientists first detected the species in Blaine, Washington, in December of 2019, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture and British Columbia.
Later, the Washington agency reported new murder hornet sightings over the next two years. However, this year in Washington, there have been none.
Officials set up nearly 1,400 giant hornet traps over the summer, some from the agency and some from volunteers. However, there were none trapped.
Scientists believe murder hornets eradicated, waiting for confirmation
In addition, there have also been no sightings in states that previously recorded the insect, such as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. While officials are still waiting for confirmation, some believe this could mean that the species has been eradicated from the U.S.
“We haven’t yet detected any hornets in our state this year. We don’t know yet if they’ve disappeared, however that is our goal, as we continue to monitor and eradicate when we find the nests,” Amber Betts, a spokesperson for WSDA told news outlets.
They added: “We will continue to monitor, trap, and utilize the help of our area citizen scientists. The year isn’t over, and we continue to trap these species into November.”
WSDA spokesperson Karla Salp also told reporters that the department must have three years of negative detections before officially calling them eradicated.
“Precisely what damage they would do to the ecosystem is not yet known. The biggest concern, of course, is their potential to negatively impact honeybee populations, which is of concern for food production. We have done some testing on fecal pellets in nests to determine what they have been feeding on here in Washington,” Salp said.
These species of hornets are known to go after honeybee hives. Just a few of these insects can decimate a hive in just a few hours, according to the WSDA.
The hornets are also known to viciously attack the honeybees inside, decapitating the bees before overtaking the hive. As for its sting, it more much more severe than a honeybee’s. Their venom is more toxic and is injected through a much longer stinger.
Moreover, hornets can also sting repeatedly. But they will only attack humans when they feel threatened.