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A braver man than me holds a speciment of the Asian giant hornet. Photo: Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Entomologists in Washington state on Thursday discovered the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S.

Why it matters: You may know this insect species by its nom de guerre: "the murder hornet." While the threat they pose to humans has been overstated, the invading hornets could decimate local honeybee populations if they establish themselves.

How it works: The giant hornets, which are native to east Asia, grow as long as two inches and use spiked mandibles to decapitate honeybees.

  • They have also been known to attack animals and human beings using a stinger long enough to puncture a beekeeper's protective suit and venom that the New York Times described as "hot metal driving into their skin."
  • In Japan they're known to kill people occasionally, though in fairness to the murder hornets, the insects are also considered a tasty delicacy themselves in some parts of the country.

Background: Last year, beekeepers in Washington began reporting sightings of the hornet, prompting scientists to begin tracking the insects.

  • On Wednesday, entomologists at the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) captured two live giant hornets that had been caught in a trap. They attached radio trackers to the insects, one of which led them back to a nest in a tree in the town of Blaine the following day.

What's next: The WSDA had planned to eliminate the nest on Friday, but had to postpone the eradication until Saturday because of inclement weather.

  • Far be it from me to tell the WSDA how to do their jobs, but maybe it's worth braving a little rain to wipe out a nest of invasive murdering insects.

The bottom line: Somehow this didn't come up in Thursday's presidential debate, but I think we can all agree on a blanket ban for all invasive species with "murder" in their names.

Go deeper

In photos: Washington state crews destroy first murder hornets nest in U.S.

Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, illuminated by red lamps, vacuum a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree in Blaine, Washington, on Saturday. Photo: Elaine Thompson/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Heavily protected crews on Saturday dismantled the first Asian giant hornet nest found in the U.S., the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed in a statement declaring: "Got 'em."

The big picture: The invasive species commonly referred to as the "murder hornet," typically doesn't harm humans unless provoked, though it has been known to kill people in Japan. The insect poses a major threat to local honeybee populations. But the WSDA said in a statement that the nest removal "appears to have been successful."

2 hours ago - Health

AstraZeneca CEO: "We need to do an additional study" on COVID vaccine

Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said on Thursday the company is likely to start a new global trial to measure how effective its coronavirus vaccine is, Bloomberg reports.

Why it matters: Following Phase 3 trials, Oxford and AstraZeneca said their vaccine was 90% effective in people who got a half dose followed by a full dose, and 62% effective in people who got two full doses.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.