In Australia, Just One Wasp Can Ground an Airplane With a Strategically Placed Nest | Smart News

New research conducted at Brisbane airport shows how the invasive keyhole wasp builds their nests over important sensors, causing havoc for aircraft, George Dvorsky reports for Gizmodo.

Keyhole wasps like to lay their eggs in small, pre-made cavities like window crevices, electrical sockets and, as their name implies, keyholes. Airplanes, meanwhile, rely on external sensors that are shaped like thin tubes. If the pilot realizes after takeoff that a sensor is blocked, the plane just has to turn around so it can be cleaned. But in a worst-case scenario, malfunctioning sensors are catastrophic. The new study, published on November 30 in the journal PLOS One, confirmed keyhole wasps are the sensor-blocking culprit, figured out their favorite size sensors for nest-building, and found that they built most of their nests near a grassy field at the airport.

The researchers hope that airports will be use the data to better combat the six-legged saboteurs.

“When we did some background research we realized that this wasn’t just an inconvenience, that you just had to clean these things out and swat the wasps away; this could actually lead to major accidents,” says Eco Logical Australia ecologist Alan House, lead author on the new study, to CNN’s Hilary Whiteman.

A plane crash off the coast of the Dominican Republic in 1996 that killed all 189 passengers and crew was linked to blockage of the pitot tube, which measures the speed that air is flowing through it as a proxy for how fast the plane is flying. The pitot tube’s measurements can show if the plane is flying fast enough to be stable, or if the plane is flying too slow, putting it at risk of stalling. Inaccurate airspeed readings can cause dangerous reactions by the pilots—or software.

“It’s not a Mayday emergency but it’s the next level down, and it closes the runways,” says House to New Scientist’s Donna Lu.

The wasps are native to the Americas, but have been flying around Brisbane for over a decade. The insects have figured out a speedy strategy for establishing their nests.

“We have anecdotal reports from ground crew at Brisbane that a plane can have arrived at the gate and within a matter of two or three minutes, a wasp will be flying around the nose of the plane having a look at the probe,” House tells CNN. House adds to Belinda Smith at ABC News Australia, “When the plane first comes in, those probes are too hot for the wasp, so I think what she’s doing is waiting for it to cool down.”

Once the tube is cool, the wasp fills the cavity with mud, an egg and a bit of prey, like a caterpillar. A thin wall of mud at the front seals the nest, and solidly blocks the pitot tube. This process can happen in under 30 minutes, as was the case when a wasp nest blocked the temperature probe on a flight from Brisbane to Newcastle in 2015, per ABC

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98 Murder Hornets Recovered From Nest Eradicated This Weekend [Video]

KEY POINTS

  • Washington State authorities captured a total of 98 murder hornets this past weekend
  • 13 of them were captured alive while 85 were vacuumed from the tree
  • Experts say eradicating the nest is just the start of ensuring that the species doesn’t spread

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) successfully eradicated an Asian giant hornet nest this past weekend. In total, the entomologists captured 98 of the so-called “murder hornets.”

After months of searching, WSDA entomologists in eye-catching protective gear were finally able to eradicate a murder hornet nest at a private property in Blaine, Washington. In a news release, the agency said that the experts collected a total of 98 worker hornets, 85 of which were vacuumed out of the nest while the 13 others were captured alive using nets.

Footage of the eradication efforts showed the vacuumed hornets inside a canister but none of them appeared to be moving.

But a later tweet shared by the WSDA revealed that all the 85 hornets that were vacuumed out of the tree turned out to be alive later in the day.

“Even being vacuumed out of bed on Saturday didn’t stop these tough ladies. Post-eradication counting revealed that all of the 85 #AsianGiantHornets were still alive later in the day on Saturday,” WSDA said in the tweet. “No, you can’t have one. The specimens are going to research.”

Despite the successful eradication of the nest, the agency does note that the work to prevent the spread of Asian giant hornets is only just beginning.

“While this is certainly a morale boost, this is only the start of our work to hopefully prevent the Asian giant hornet from gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest,” managing entomologist Sven-Erik Spichig said in the news release. “We suspect there may be more nests in Whatcom County.”

Spichig reiterated this sentiment in a virtual press conference held by the WSDA on Monday, noting the possibility that more than one queen from the original nest had been successful at developing a “fully functional nest.”

Now, the agency is planning to cut the tree where the nest was discovered to see just how big the nest really was and whether it may have produced other queens. The experts will also continue to place traps through to November in case there are still other nests in the area.

“The public still has an important role to play in detecting Asian giant hornets in Washington,” WSDA said in the news release. “The nest removed Saturday was found thanks to a report made by a member of the public in September. Every report of an Asian giant hornet leads the agency closer to finding a nest.”

People who believe they may have spotted Asian giant hornets are urged to report it to the authorities via agr.wa.gov/hornets, emailing [email protected] or by calling 1-800-443-6684.

Workers wearing protective suits, illuminated with red lamps, vacuum a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree in Blaine, Washington state Workers wearing protective suits, illuminated with red lamps, vacuum a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree in Blaine, Washington state Photo: POOL

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First ‘murder hornet’ nest eradicated in U.S. [Video]

The Asian giant hornet is pretty much what it sounds like: an enormous, flying insect with a terrifically painful sting.

But on the plus side, the so-called “murder hornets” — that can grow up to two-and-half inches in length — are also large enough to support the long-antenna of a radio transmitter.

That means that if you can trap them, you can track them.

And that’s just what entomologists with the Washington State Department of Agriculture set out to do with this invasive, dangerous species.

This hornet, seen here enjoying a mound of jelly, is carrying a tracking device.

It and others led the hornet-hunters to a tree in Blaine, Washington, last week.

On Saturday, entomologists clad in space-suit like protective gear wrapped up the cavity, and vacuumed out the nest, the first one eradicated in North America.

Sven Spicheger is the Managing Entomologist with the WSDA.

“These particular invasive insects are known to be voracious predators of honeybees, particularly managed honeybees, where only a few Asian giant hornets can take out thirty thousand healthy honeybees in just a matter of a few hours. And unfortunately, the managed honeybees we use here have no natural defense against them that’s effective at all.”

The Asian giant hornets appeared in parts of the Pacific Northwest over the summer. And, in addition to menacing honey producers, they can also pose a threat to humans.

“Well, it’s a different kind of venom than honey bee venom, so most people are going to experience severe pain if they’re stung by one of these.”

Spicheger said that in general, the Asian giant hornets don’t target people. Bu he does not recommend trying to remove a nest on your own.

“I would highly recommend, though, that nobody attempts this without proper gear.”

On Saturday, the WSDA tweeted, “Got ’em.”

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First nest found in US eradicated with vacuum hose

Scientists in Washington state fitted a tracking device to the insects using dental floss
Scientists in Washington state fitted a tracking device to the insects using dental floss

The first nest of Asian giant hornets found in the US has successfully been destroyed by scientists.

The nest, in the state of Washington, was found by putting tracker devices on the hornets and it was sucked out of a tree using a vacuum hose.

The invasive species insects, known as “murder hornets”, have a powerful sting and can spit venom.

They target honeybees, which pollinate crops, and can destroy a colony in just a matter of hours.

The nest in Washington was found when entomologists, scientists that study insects, used dental floss to tie tracking devices to three hornets.

The nest of around 200 insects was then discovered in the city of Blaine close to the Canadian border.

On Saturday, a crew of scientists wearing protective suits vacuumed the insects from the tree, which will now be cut down to remove any further nests.

The nest of around 200 Asian giant hornets was found in a tree in the city of Blaine
The nest of around 200 Asian giant hornets was found in a tree in the city of Blaine

Asian giant hornets are the among the world’s largest wasps – the queens can reach over 5cm (2in) long.

Their venomous sting can penetrate humans’ protective clothing but the number of people they kill each year is low – about 40 annually in Asia, according to the Smithsonian museum in Washington D.C.

Normally their natural habitat is in areas of Asia from China to Japan, but in 2019 there were several sightings of single “murder hornets” in North America.

A nest was destroyed in Vancouver Island in Canada in December last year.

Globally, conservationists are deeply concerned about falling insect populations. But it can be permissible to kill some insects if they are an invasive species – one that is not native to an area and preys on other insects there.

Honeybees are under threat due to loss of food after habitat destruction, pesticides, and disease.

When an Asian giant hornet enters a honeybee colony, it begins a “slaughter phrase” in which it kills bee after bee and can destroy the colony in a few hours.

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First ‘murder hornet’ nest in US is found near Canadian border

SEATTLE, Wa. — After weeks of trapping and searching, entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) have found an Asian giant hornet nest on private property in Blaine. It’s the first such nest found in the U.S., and the agency will set out to destroy it Saturday.

Four live Asian giant hornets, known to some researchers as “murder hornets,” were caught in two traps this week and tagged, WSDA spokesperson Karla Sapp said Friday.

One was followed back to its nest on Thursday.

“The nest is inside the cavity of a tree located on private property near an area cleared for a residential home,” Sapp said in an email. “Dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present.”

The agency has been keen to find Asian giant hornet nests since the insects’ presence in the United States was first detected in December in Blaine, and another was trapped in July of this year. Blaine is in the northwest corner of Washington.

At nearly 2 inches long, Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornets; they have a distinct orange face and dark, teardrop-shaped eyes. They are an invasive species, but they seem to find the Pacific Northwest to be a hospitable new habitat, according to a recent study.

Scientists worry they could decimate honeybee populations in the U.S., which are on a decline.

“Destroying the nest before new queens emerge and mate will prevent the spread of this invasive pest,” the WSDA wrote in a statement this summer.

The hornets are set to enter what state entomologists call the “slaughter phase,” when they can kill an entire honeybee hive in a matter of hours.

During this phase, WSDA managing entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger said, the hornets “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.”

It’s this process that earns the giant hornets their scary nickname.

As many as 50 people die each year from their stings in Japan. But Asian giant hornets don’t generally attack people unprompted, and we shouldn’t be too afraid of them, David Crowder, an entomology professor at Washington State University, told The Seattle Times in September.

“The name ‘murder hornet’ worries a lot of people,” he said. “And while it’s true the insects can kill people if they sting you enough times or if you have an allergic reaction to the sting, that’s not fundamentally different from other wasps and bees that can also kill people.”

Story by Christine Clarridge. Seattle Times staff reporter Elise Takahama contributed to this report.

©2020 The Seattle Times

Visit The Seattle Times at www.seattletimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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First ‘Murder Hornets’ Nest Found In US Will Be Destroyed

The “murder hornets” nest found in the Pacific Northwest won’t be around for long. The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced they found the first nest in the U.S. and it will be destroyed shortly.

The WSDA entomologists found an Asian giant hornet nest (nicknamed “murder hornets”) on a property in Blaine, which borders Canada. After trapping and tagging several of the hornets last week, they finally had luck when they were able to attach a radio tracker to one deadly insect and followed it back to the nest.

The Asian giant hornets made a home in a tree, which isn’t always the case. “While Asian giant hornets normally nest in the ground, they are occasionally found nesting in dead trees. Dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present,” a press release revealed.

They shared a video of the “murder hornets” nest on Twitter: 

The first Asian giant hornet was spotted in Washington in December 2019 and scientists trapped their first insect in July. They are an invasive species, which is why they will be destroyed Saturday.

While “murder hornets” kill 30 to 50 people in Japan each year, scientists are also concerned about the deadly hornets killing the honeybees and other insects that are vital to healthy ecosystems in the U.S. The Asian giant hornet is five times the size of a honeybee and can take out a honeybee hive in hours.

The east coast doesn’t have murder hornets at the moment, but they’ve been fighting a different invasive species. The spotted lanternfly, also an invasive species from Asia, sparked “quarantine” rules in New Jersey.

A sample specimen of a dead Asian Giant Hornet from Japan, also known as a murder hornet, is shown by a pest biologist from the Washington State Department of Agriculture on July 29, 2020 in Bellingham, Washington A sample specimen of a dead Asian Giant Hornet from Japan, also known as a murder hornet, is shown by a pest biologist from the Washington State Department of Agriculture on July 29, 2020 in Bellingham, Washington Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Karen Ducey

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First ‘murder hornet’ nest in U.S. is found in Blaine

After weeks of trapping and searching, entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) have found an Asian giant hornet nest on private property in Blaine. It’s the first ever such nest found in the U.S., and the agency will set out to destroy it Saturday.

Four live Asian giant hornets, known to some researchers as “murder hornets,” were caught in two traps this week and tagged, WSDA spokesperson Karla Sapp said Friday.

One was ultimately followed back to its nest on Thursday.

“The nest is inside the cavity of a tree located on private property near an area cleared for a residential home,” Sapp said in an email. “Dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present.”

The agency has been keen to find Asian giant hornet nests since the insects’ presence in the United States was first detected in December 2019, in Blaine, and another was trapped in July of this year.

At nearly 2 inches long, Asian giant hornets are the world’s largest hornets; they have a distinct orange face and dark, teardrop-shaped eyes. They are an invasive species, but they seem to find the Pacific Northwest to be a hospitable new habitat, according to a recent study.

Scientists worry they could decimate honeybee populations in the U.S., which are already on a decline.

“Destroying the nest before new queens emerge and mate will prevent the spread of this invasive pest,” the WSDA wrote in a statement this summer.

The hornets are set to enter what state entomologists call the “slaughter phase,” when they can kill an entire honeybee hive in a matter of hours.

During this phase, WSDA managing entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger said, the hornets “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.”

It’s this process that earns the giant hornets their scary nickname.

As many as 50 people die each year from their stings in Japan. But Asian giant hornets don’t generally attack people unprompted, and we shouldn’t be too afraid of them, Dr. David Crowder, an entomology professor at Washington State University, told The Seattle Times in September.

“The name ‘murder hornet’ worries a lot of people,” he said. “And while it’s true the insects can kill people if they sting you enough times or if you have an allergic reaction to the sting, that’s not fundamentally different from other wasps and bees that can also kill people.”

Seattle Times staff reporter Elise Takahama contributed to this report.

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