The first known Asian giant wasp (A.K.A. murder hornet) nest in the U.S. was eradicated on Saturday in a scene that looked like it could have come from a sci-fi movie.
Crews donning protective equipment descended on the nest on a property in the city of Blaine, Washington. There, they vacuumed the wasps (the largest in the world) from a tree cavity into special canisters.
Plans to destroy the nest on Friday were put off due to bad weather, according to the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). But on Saturday the teams were successful, announcing in a Facebook post: "Got 'em."
"Today’s Asian giant hornet nest removal appears to have been successful," the department wrote. "The WSDA Pest Program vacuumed numerous specimens out of the Asian giant hornet nest located in a tree cavity near Blaine, WA."
The Asian giant wasp is an invasive species, and just a handful of them can wipe out an entire honey bee hive in a matter of hours during their "slaughter phase." When sightings of the wasps were first reported in the U.S. in late 2019 and early 2020, finding them became top priority.
While honey bees are at the most risk of harm from Asian giant wasps by far, the work crew's futuristic-looking protection was necessary due to the risk that the wasps pose to humans. The wasps pack a neurotoxic poison in their stingers that has been described as feeling like a "red hot poker" when stung. Fatalities are rare, but the wasps do kill an estimated 50 people a year.
Officials announced the nest's discovery last week after trapping and tracking the wasps back to their home. According to the WSDA, "dozens of the hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present" at the time of discovery.
It's unlikely that the eradicated nest is the only one in the U.S., and Washington State officials are holding a press conference on Monday to share more information.