The first-ever nest of invasive Asian giant hornets discovered on US soil has been successfully removed by pest control specialists during a large-scale operation involving futuristic equipment – and a vacuum cleaner.
On Sunday, Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) said it dismantled the nest that had been discovered near Blaine earlier this week.
“The WSDA Pest Program vacuumed numerous specimens out of the nest located in a tree cavity,” the department said in a short statement posted on Facebook, promising to provide a further update on Monday.
The images that have since been released show the hornet colony being treated with more precautions than a never-before-seen alien specimen in a sci-fi movie. The team, clad in thick full-body protective suits, wrapped the infested tree with a plastic membrane before sucking the insects out with a giant vacuum cleaner.
All the insects found inside the nest were safely contained in a large transparent tube, video footage shared by WSDA shows.
The WSDA specialists first received reports of the invasive hornets last December, and finally managed to capture several specimens this week. The captive hornets were fitted with miniature tracking devices, leading the researchers to the nest. The Asian giant hornet is considered an invasive pest, so officials were anxious not to allow the insects to get a foothold in the US.
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Asian giant hornets are the largest species of hornet in the world, boasting a wingspan of 7cm (3in) and a 0.6cm (quarter of an inch-long) venomous stinger. They can kill a human, if one is unlucky enough to disturb a nest and get stung repeatedly, but they are routinely dangerous for honey bees. The hornets invade beehives, decapitating their inhabitants with their powerful mandibles before claiming the nest as their own. Unlike their Asian relatives, the European honey bee that’s made its home in the US failed to develop defense tactics against these killing machines in the course of their evolution.
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