Evidence of six sightings of Asian giant hornets, known as murder hornets, in Washington state have prompted an urgent search for a possible nest.
State agriculture officials are working to find and destroy a nest before the hornets enter their “slaughter phase,” when they kill honeybees, which are crucial for pollinating some of the state’s staple crops, such as raspberries and blueberries.
Murder hornets’ attacks on honeybee hives tend to increase around this time of the year, said Sven-Erik Spichiger, a department entomologist, during a virtual news conference Friday.
Many farmers in northwestern states depend on honeybees to pollinate their crops.
The first of the recent sightings occurred nearly two weeks ago when a private landowner in the town of Blaine in Whatcom County, near the Canadian border, captured two murder hornets.
When the state Department of Agriculture responded to the sighting on Sept. 30, a scientist trapped one hornet alive, a first for the agency, spokeswoman Karla Salp said during the news conference.
Other Blaine residents reported several other sightings that same week.
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SOURCE: NBC News, Nicole Acevedo; The Associated Press