Nature abhors a vacuum. Murder hornets don’t care for one too much either, but they’ll survive.
And that’s the problem.
Scientists in Washington have discovered that not even an industrial vacuum is powerful enough to destroy the Asian giant hornets now threatening pollinators in the Pacific Northwest. When they recently evacuated a swarm of 85 of the insects out of a tree in Blaine, WA, the scientists were amazed to find two days later, the hornets were still alive.
A video showing the frantic hornets was posted to Facebook by the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA). It shows the insects moving around in a long plastic tube, seemingly unfazed by the vacuuming.
According to the Daily Mail, the nest was located by fixing three captured hornets with radio trackers using dental floss. They released the hornets and followed them back to the others.
The WSDA maintains that the captured hornets will be kept alive. Scientists intend to study the insects in hopes of learning how they can be prevented from proliferating, potentially destroying millions of honeybees in the U.S.
“Many have already been flash frozen in a -80 freezer and are being prepared for shipping to researchers out of state,” Karla Salp, spokesperson for WSDA told DailyMail.com. “A subset of the living wasps were hand-carried in a container, in a cooler on ice to a USDA facility in Washington State where they are in a quarantine room for live testing.
“The remainder are still in the cylinder, on ice, in a cooler, in a locked lab. We used them in cages to see how they responded to some of our trap designs, and will be frozen in the next day pending transferring more to the USDA in state.”
After the hornets were removed from the tree, the scientists pumped carbon dioxide into the tree and wrapped it in plastic. The tree will be cut down at a later date, as it likely contains murder hornet larvae.
“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 managing entomologist Sven Spichiger. “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.”
These massive predatory insects can decimate hives, as evidenced in early May when a hive of bees was found destroyed in Custer, WA, the New York Times reports. A handful of murder hornets can kill off a hive of honeybees in just a few hours. After invading a hive, the hornets begin biting off the heads of bees, saving the bodies to feed their own larvae.
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