After the discovery of a dead “murder hornet” queen, scientists have warned there may be “hundreds” more in North America.

Until December, Asian Giant Hornets (also known as “murder hornets”) were only found in the rainforests of Japan – then two worker hornets were discovered in Custer, Washington. It's unknown exactly how the insects arrived in North America.

Scientists had hoped the two lone murder hornets came from a colony that didn’t produce any queens.

Unfortunately, at the end of last month, a dead queen hornet was discovered – confirming the likely chance that other queens are buzzing around North America at this very moment, looking to set up colonies of their own.

In fact, one colony can produce “hundreds” of queens, according to Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with the Washington State Department of Agriculture:

Since colonies can produce hundreds of queens, we probably have a few more to find.

It’s disappointing to know they can make it through the winter and survive here, but it doesn’t change what we plan to do — we have a [good] chance to eradicate them.

He said he’s “concerned” about the discovery of the queen:

If we start finding workers we would know that colonies are established. We are concerned.

But Spichiger stressed that it’s still early days and sightings have only been made in the small area of northwestern Washington.

In early summer, fertilised queens that survive the winter begin laying eggs. These eggs soon hatch into either workers or more queens, who can then go on to start colonies of their own.

Towards the end of summer and start of fall, these hornets mate. When it comes around to winter again, the queens will find a place to weather the cold and the rest of the colony will die.

So what can experts do to stop it?

Using a mixture of fruit juice and rice wine, researchers hope to lure the murder hornets in and then fit them with tracking devices.

This will hopefully lead them back to the colony, where they can eradicate the dangerous predators.

Spichiger added:

It will take all of us working together to locate and eradicate Asian giant hornets from our state.

They can grow up to two inches and its venom is seven times more powerful than a bee’s.

One small colony of Asian Giant Hornets can completely decimate an entire beehive.

H/T: National Geographic

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