The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced in a tweet Saturday that it eradicated a “murder hornet” nest, making it the second nest of the year. The department also confirmed that the year's third nest had been located a few miles from the second a day earlier.

The nests have an unknown number of murder hornets, also known as Asian giant hornets, and will be eradicated, the department said.

There have been extensive hunts for the world's largest hornets, which have the potential to decimate U.S. bee populations. Murder hornets have mostly been found in East and South Asia, as well as parts of the Russian Far East, but were also discovered in the Pacific Northwest in December 2019. In Japan, the hornets cause between 30 to 50 deaths per year.

The WSDA discovered the first nest in late August in Whatcom County, which is located near the Canadian border.

Murder hornets can completely disrupt environments if they are successful at congregating in an area. The department's team is working on getting all nests destroyed so that they won't spread any further. This is done by trapping and killing them or sucking them out of the nests with a vacuum.

“Asian giant hornet attacks and destroys honey bee hives. A few hornets can destroy a hive in a matter of hours. The hornets enter a 'slaughter phase' where they kill bees by decapitating them. They then defend the hive as their own, taking the brood to feed their own young,” the department said on its website.  

“While they do not generally attack people or pets, they can attack when threatened. Their stinger is longer than that of a honey bee and their venom is more toxic. They can also sting repeatedly.”

Since a murder hornet has a larger stinger, it can inject more venom with its stings, the WSDA said.

The giant hornets make nests that can take over the inside of a tree, the first nest that was found in a dead alder tree, consisted of nine layers of comb and contained 1,500 hornets in various stages of development, the news release explained.

The tree was cut and relocated to Washington State University to learn more about the species and how to stop them from becoming a bigger problem. 

“We expect there are more nests out there and, like this one, we hope to find them before they can produce new queens. Your report may be the one that leads us to a nest.”

The department will continue its search for murder hornets to prevent them from establishing in the U.S. until the end of November.