Just when you forgot about them, they return.
If you’ll recall, over the summer, concerns were raised over an encroachment of Asian giant hornets, colloquially known as the “murder hornet,” onto US soil. These giant insects are mean, deadly, and have an eternal vendetta against honeybees, which is a potentially huge problem for the United States’ already-declining honeybee population. They have huge, pointy stingers, they spit venom; they’re pretty much a who’s who of the absolute worst of the insect kingdom. A few sparse samples of the insect were retrieved in Washington state back in July, but thankfully, no full-on nests sprouted up. But much like Jaws waiting for a sequel, the hornets have returned with a vengeance.
Washington state entomologists have been tracking the progression of the hornets this entire time, and after attaching tracking devices to a few wayward insects, they were led to the very first proper murder hornet nest to be established in the States. The entomologists wasted no time; they contacted the Washington State Department of Agriculture, who deployed a crack team of pest disposal workers clad in thick suits to protect them from the hornets’ stingers and venom.
Destroying the nest was a fairly straightforward process; first, the workers sealed the nest’s openings using a foam material, then they wrapped it in cellophane. A vacuum hose was then inserted, which was used to suck up as many hornets as possible. Once the vacuum stopped working, carbon dioxide gas was pumped into the sealed nest to do away with any stragglers. Due to a combination of quick action and low temperatures keeping the hornets docile, no workers were injured during the extermination process.
Murder hornet eradicator is the superhero costume we all need this Halloween https://t.co/LWbSbwiYWY
— Karen Weise (@KYWeise) October 25, 2020
“We wanted to make sure that we took the nest out as quickly as we possibly could to avoid any queens escaping,” Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said in a video news conference Monday.
With the vacuum and the net, about ninety-eight worker hornets were successfully captured. These specimens, along with the tree that housed the nest, will be sent to the lab to determine what’s attracting them. Officials have cautioned that while this is the first discovered nest, there could be others elsewhere in Washington, or possibly the rest of the country.
“Even though we’re just fighting this fight right here in Washington right now, it is literally for the rest of the country,” Spichiger said.