The Washington State Department of Agriculture on Saturday destroyed the first ever nest of murder hornets found in the US.
The nest of Asian giant hornets (nicknamed murder hornets for their habit of killing large numbers of bees) was the size of a basketball and contained an estimated 100 to 200 hornets, according to the AP. Wearing thick protective suits, the WSDA nest elimination crew vacuumed the hornets from the tree into large canisters. The tree where the nest was found will be cut down to locate and destroy any newborn hornets and see if any of the hornet queens have left the hive.
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A WSDA press conference planned for Monday will update the public on the status of the nest and any plans to look for more hornets nearby.
Entomologists spotted the nest in a tree cavity near Blaine, Washington, after they trapped, tagged and tracked a live Asian giant hornet back to its nest, the WSDA reported Friday.
The successful detection of a nest came after a WSDA trapper on Wednesday collected two live murder hornets caught in a new type of trap the agency placed in the area. Two more live hornets were found in another trap on Thursday, the same day WSDA staff tagged the previously trapped hornets with radio trackers and were able to follow one back to its nest.
Entomologists discovered the murder hornets' nest inside the cavity of a tree located on private property. While murder hornets normally nest in the ground, they can sometimes be found nesting in dead trees. Dozens of the murder hornets were spotted around the tree.
The WSDA has been actively searching for murder hornet nests since the insects first showed up. The first confirmed detection of an Asian giant hornet in Washington happened in December 2019, and the first hornet trapped in July of this year.
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Asian giant hornets are a dangerous invasive pest not native to the US, but they are the world's largest hornet as well as a predator of honey bees and other insects.
A small group of murder hornets can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours.
Entomologists and citizen scientists have been diligently tracking sightings of the hornet in an ongoing effort to find nests to eliminate them.