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Two live queen Asian giant hornets found after examining nest

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. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Two queen Asian giant hornets were discovered alive Wednesday when the tree that held the first nest found in the United States was cut open.

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) says when they chopped off the section of the tree in Blaine, Wash., holding the nest, they found two live Asian giant hornets, both queens.

After arduous efforts to find the nest, entomologists vacuumed out the predators on Saturday, Oct. 24. They then cut into the tree to look for strays and collect the nest so they can study it for clues about the dangerous hornets and how to stop their spread.

In total, the WSDA removed 98 worker hornets — 85 in the early morning extraction, and another 13 live hornets collected with a net while observing the nest before extraction.

“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,” said Sven Spichiger, WSDA managing entomologist. “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.”

To clear the nest, the team stuffed dense foam padding into a crevice above and below the nest entrance and wrapped the tree with cellophane, leaving a single opening. The team then inserted a vacuum hose to remove the hornets from the nest. The WSDA says the work started slowly, with only a few hornets emerging, but they then used a wooden board to strike the tree and encourage more hornets to leave, which proved successful.

When the hornets stopped coming out of the tree, WSDA says, the team pumped carbon dioxide into the tree to kill or anesthetize the remaining hornets. The tree was sealed with spray foam, wrapped again with cellophane, and traps were placed nearby.

Land owner describes ‘exciting’ hunt for Asian giant hornets nest

The WSDA Pest Program has cut down the tree and is cutting into the nest Thursday.

Traps will still be set by the WSDA through November in the hopes of catching more Asian giant hornets and locating any other active nests in the area.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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