VIDEO: Scientists remove 98 ‘murder hornets’ just south of Canadian border in Washington

Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, smiles as he walks with a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, smiles as he walks with a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, walks with a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. Workers with the state Agriculture Department spent weeks searching, trapping and using dental floss to tie tracking devices to Asian giant hornets, which can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but are the biggest threat to honeybees that farmers depend on to pollinate crops. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)Sven Spichiger, Washington State Department of Agriculture managing entomologist, walks with a canister of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a nest in a tree behind him Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. Workers with the state Agriculture Department spent weeks searching, trapping and using dental floss to tie tracking devices to Asian giant hornets, which can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but are the biggest threat to honeybees that farmers depend on to pollinate crops. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Wearing a protective suit, Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney fills a tree cavity with carbon dioxide after vacuuming a nest of Asian giant hornets from inside it Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. Workers with the state Agriculture Department spent weeks searching, trapping and using dental floss to tie tracking devices to Asian giant hornets, which can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but are the biggest threat to honeybees that farmers depend on to pollinate crops. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)Wearing a protective suit, Washington State Department of Agriculture entomologist Chris Looney fills a tree cavity with carbon dioxide after vacuuming a nest of Asian giant hornets from inside it Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. Workers with the state Agriculture Department spent weeks searching, trapping and using dental floss to tie tracking devices to Asian giant hornets, which can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom but are the biggest threat to honeybees that farmers depend on to pollinate crops. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Washington State Department of Agriculture workers holds two of the dozens of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)A Washington State Department of Agriculture workers holds two of the dozens of Asian giant hornets vacuumed from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working in pre-dawn darkness illuminated with red lamps, vacuum a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)Washington State Department of Agriculture workers, wearing protective suits and working in pre-dawn darkness illuminated with red lamps, vacuum a nest of Asian giant hornets from a tree Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. Scientists in Washington state discovered the first nest earlier in the week of so-called murder hornets in the United States and worked to wipe it out Saturday morning to protect native honeybees. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Workers from the state Department of Agriculture managed to destroy the first nest of so-called murder hornets discovered in the U.S. without suffering any stings or other injuries, the agency said Monday.

The nest, located in Whatcom County near the Canadian border, created concern because the Asian giant hornets are large and their sting can be lethal, especially if a person is stung numerous times. The hornets also pose a huge threat to honey bees that pollinate many crops.

“No one was stung and no one was even attacked that I am aware of,” said Sven-Erik Spichiger, an entomologist who directed the nest eradication Saturday near the town of Blaine.

Scientists recovered 98 hornets from the nest, including 13 that were captured alive in a net, the agency said.

“The WSDA is not selling any Asian giant hornet specimens,” spokesman Karla Salp said in response to questions from the public. The captured specimens will be given to various researchers, she said.

Another 85 Asian giant hornets in the nest were vacuumed into a special container and died. The nest, high up in an alder tree, was sealed with foam and shrink wrap and hornets that remained inside were asphyxiated, Spichiger said. The queen hornet was not collected, although she is expected to be inside the nest, Spichiger said.

“This is only the start of our work to hopefully prevent the Asian giant hornet from gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest.” he said, adding scientists will continue looking for a suspected one or two more nests in Whatcom County, near Blaine and Birch Bay.

Saturday’s operation began at about 5:30 a.m. with the team donning protective suits — purchased from Amazon — thick enough to prevent stingers from penetrating and setting up scaffolding around the tree so they could reach the opening of the nest, which was about 10 feet high. The team stuffed dense foam padding into a crevice above and below the nest entrance and wrapped the tree with cellophane, leaving just a single opening. This is where the team inserted a vacuum hose to remove the hornets from the nest.

Team members used a wooden board to whack the tree to encourage hornets to leave, the agency said.

When the hornets stopped coming out of the nest, the team pumped carbon dioxide into the tree to kill or anesthetize any remaining hornets. They then sealed the tree with spray foam, wrapped it again with cellophane, and finally placed traps nearby to catch any potential survivors or hornets who may have been away during the operation and returned to the tree. The work was completed by 9 a.m.

“We congratulate the Washington State Department of Agriculture for eradicating this nest,” said Osama El-Lissy, Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program. “Thanks to their expertise and innovation, this nest is no longer a threat to honey bees in the area. ‘’

Entomologists will now try to determine whether the nest had begun to produce new queens who could establish additional nests.

WSDA will continue setting traps through at least November in hopes of catching any more Asian giant hornets still in Whatcom County.

WSDA has been actively searching for Asian giant hornet nests since the first hornets were caught earlier this year. The first confirmed detection of an Asian giant hornet in Washington was made in December 2019 and the first hornet was trapped in July of this year. Several more were subsequently caught, all in Whatcom County, which is in the northwestern corner of the state.

Asian giant hornets, an invasive pest not native to the U.S., are the world’s largest hornet and a predator of honey bees and other insects. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours. The honey bees pollinate many of the crops in Washington’s multi-billion-dollar agriculture industry.

READ MORE: Crews vacuum ‘murder hornets’ out of Washington nest, first-ever in U.S.

Asian giant hornets can deliver painful stings to people and spit venom. Despite their nickname and the hype that has stirred fears in an already bleak year, the world’s largest hornets kill at most a few dozen people a year in Asian countries, and experts say it is probably far less. Meanwhile, hornets, wasps and bees typically found in the United States kill an average of 62 people a year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.

The real threat from Asian giant hornets — which are 2 inches (5 centimetres) long — is their devastating attacks on honeybees, which are already under siege from problems like mites, diseases, pesticides and loss of food.

The invasive insect is normally found in China, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Vietnam and other Asian countries. Washington state and the Canadian province of British Columbia are the only places the hornets have been found on the continent.

The nest was found after the state Agriculture Department trapped some hornets and used dental floss to attach radio trackers last week to some of them.

When they found the nest on the property of a resident, researchers were disturbed to see a children’s playset only about 30 feet away, Spichiger said.

It remains unclear if the hornets will establish a toehold in Whatcom County from which they could spread of many portions of the United States, Spichiger said.

“It still looks optimistic that we are ahead of this,” he said. “We still can keep this out.”

“It is worth the battle,” he said.

Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

State of Washington

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: Town of Smithers lifts alert for high levels of chlorine in water

Residents are advised town water is now safe to use

Garry Merkel has been recognized for his work in culturally appropriate Indigenous education with an honourary doctorate from the University of British Columbia.
Tahltan educator recognized with honorary doctorate from UBC

Garry Merkel has dedicated his life to improving Indigenous educational outcomes

Gareth Manderson, general manager BC Works, and Bandstra’s Zach Runions and Steve Collins. Photo supplied
Smithers family-owned business institution sold to publicly-traded company

Bandstra Transportation and Babine Trucking acquired by Mullen Group

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

MLA Shirley Bond, right, answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on February 19, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Former B.C. gaming minister says she wasn’t told directly about dirty cash flowing to casinos

Shirley Bond said Thursday civil forfeiture, gang violence and gambling addiction were also major concerns in 2011

RCMP Constable Etsell speaks to tourists leaving the area at a police roadblock on Westside Road south of Fintry, B.C., Thursday, July 23, 2009. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Yvonne Berg
B.C. police say they take ‘exception’ to conducting roadblocks limiting travel

Asking the police to enforce roadblocks exposes officers to further risk and possible COVID-19 infections, says federation president Brian Sauve

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

As part of the province’s strategy to combat the opioid overdose crisis, take-home naloxone kits have been distributed throughout the province. (Courtesy of Gaëlle Nicolussi)
Vancouver Island could be at its worst point of overdose crises yet: medical health officer

Island Health issued overdose advisories for Victoria, various communities in the last two weeks

BC Hydro released a survey Thursday, April 22. It found that many British Columbians are unintentionally contributing to climate change with their yard maintenance choices. (Pixabay)
Spend a lot of time doing yard work? It might be contributing to climate change

Recent BC Hydro survey finds 60% of homeowners still use gas-powered lawnmowers and yard equipment

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Nanaimo RCMP say a man was injured while pouring gunpowder on a backyard fire in Harewood on Wednesday, April 21. (File photo)
Nanaimo man hospitalized after pouring gunpowder onto backyard fire

RCMP investigating explosion in Harewood also came across a still for making alcohol on property

Most Read