A team of entomologists in full-body protective gear vacuumed Asian giant hornets out of a tree in Washington state, eradicating the first nest of the so-called murder hornets found in the United States.
The state’s agricultural department said it had spent weeks searching for and trapping the hornets, which attack honeybee hives and could pose a threat to humans, because they can sting repeatedly with venom that is stronger than a honeybee’s.
The state’s entomologists succeeded by attaching radio trackers to three hornets they had trapped earlier last week, one of which they followed to the nest, located in a tree near Blaine.
“Got ‘em. Vacuumed out several #AsianGiantHornets from a tree cavity near Blaine this morning,” the agriculture department said on Twitter on Saturday.
The stinging hornet, the world’s largest, can grow as large as 2-1/2 inches (6.4 cm) in length and is native to Southeast Asia, China and Taiwan.
Aside from the danger to humans, the hornet presents a threat to agriculture and the apiary industry, officials have said, because it is a known predator of honey bees, with a few of the hornets capable of wiping out an entire hive in hours.
The two-inch insects, dubbed “murder hornets” because of their strong sting that can be fatal to some humans, especially after repeated stings, were first spotted in the US in December 2019 when the Washington State Department of Agriculture verified two reported sightings near Blaine.
More sightings were reported in Washington State throughout the year.
The agriculture department said in September that it hoped to find and eradicate the hornets’ nest by mid-month before new queens emerge and mate, which would help it “prevent the spread” of the invasive species.
The hornet has also been sighted in the Canadian province of British Columbia, just north of the Washington State border.
Asian giant hornets can sting through most beekeeper suits, deliver nearly seven times the amount of venom as a honey bee, and sting multiple times, AP news agency reported.