Scientists in Washington state discovered a nest of so-called killer hornets and plan to eradicate it on Saturday to protect native bees, officials said Friday.

Workers at the state Department of Agriculture spent weeks searching, trapping and flossing to tie tracking devices to giant Asian hornets, whose sting is extremely painful but whose real threat is to bees that pollinate crops.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we succeeded,” agency spokeswoman Karla Salp said in statements to the press. Bad weather conditions postponed plans to destroy the nest on Friday, which was found in Blaine, a city north of Seattle

The honeycomb is about the size of a basketball and contains between 100 and 200 hornets, according to the scientists, who suspected it was in the area since the invading insects began to appear late last year.

Hornets. (Karla Salp / Washington State Department of Agriculture via AP)

Authorities have not said how the hornets got to North America.

Despite the nickname and fears generated in an already bleak year, the world’s largest hornet kills at most a dozen people a year in Asian countries, and experts think it is probably much less.

By comparison, common hornets, wasps and bees in the United States kill an average of 62 people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The real threat from the giant Asian hornets _ which are 5 centimeters (2 inches) long _ is their devastating attacks on bees, which are already being decimated by problems like mites, disease, pesticides and food loss.

One of the hornets. (Karla Salp / Washington State Department of Agriculture via AP)

A small group of Asian hornets can kill an entire hive in hours and have already destroyed six or seven in Washington state, officials said.

The nest was found after a Department of Agriculture worker caught two of the hornets on Wednesday. Two more were captured Thursday, the agency said.

Using dental floss, “entomologists were able to connect radio trackers to three hornets, the second of which led to the discovery of the nest” on Thursday, agriculture officials said.


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