First murder hornet nest found in US destroyed via vacuum; more nests may exist

"We suspect there may be more nests." See the Washington State Department of Agriculture obliterating the basketball-size Asian Giant Hornet nest in a new video.

Murder hornets are here, but not for long.
Washington State Department of Agriculture

The Washington State Department of Agriculture destroyed the first-ever nest of murder hornets found in the US on Saturday.

The nest of Asian giant hornets -- nicknamed murder hornets for their practice of killing large numbers of bees -- was the size of a basketball and contained almost 100 hornetsWearing thick protective suits, the WSDA nest elimination crew vacuumed the hornets from the tree into large canisters

More specifically, 85 hornets were vacuumed out of the nest, and another 13 live hornets were collected for research with a net, the WSDA said on Monday. The tree where the nest was found will be cut down to destroy any newborn hornets and to see if any of the hornet queens have left the hive. 

"The eradication went very smoothly, even though our original plan had to be adapted due to the fact that the nest was in a tree, rather than the ground," managing entomologist Sven Spichiger said on Monday. "While this is certainly a morale boost, this is only the start of our work to hopefully prevent the Asian giant hornet from gaining a foothold in the Pacific Northwest. We suspect there may be more nests in Whatcom County."

Entomologists originally 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 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. 

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. The WSDA asks that people continue to report any more sightings of Asian Giant Hornets to them immediately.