The Washington State Department of Agriculture reported Friday, July 31, that it had trapped its first Asian giant hornet. The bug was found in a WSDA trap set near Birch Bay in Whatcom County.
Trappers checked the bottle trap on July 14 and submitted the contents to WSDA's entomology lab for processing. The hornet was confirmed during processing on July 29. This is the first hornet detected in a trap, rather than found in the environment as the state's five previous confirmed sightings were.
Sven Spichiger, managing entomologis for WSDA, notes that "this is encouraging because it means we know the traps work. But it also means we have work to do."
Next steps for the agency are to search for nests using infrared cameras and place added traps in order to catch live Asian giant hornet specimens. WSDA Pest Program staff will deploy special traps intended to trap hornets but keep them alive. If they catch live hornets, the department will attempt to tag and track them back to the colony. Once located, the agency will eradicate the colony.
WSDA reports that it hopes to find and destroy the next by mid-September before the colony would begin creating new reproducing queens and drones. Until then, the colony will only contain the queen and worker hornets. Destroying the next before new queens emerge and mate will prevent spread of the pest.
In addition to the traps that WSDA has set to catch hornets, citizen scientists and other cooperators have placed 1,300 traps. Those interested in trapping can still build and set traps on their property. Traps require weekly bait replacement and a commitment to mail the trap contents to WSDA if bees or wasps are collected. If a citizen scientist traps a live Asian giant hornet, they should call the WSDA Pest Program hotline at 800-443-6684.
Because the number of Asian giant hornet workers increases as a colony develops, residents should be most likely to see an Asian giant hornet in August and September. If you think you have seen one, report it at agr.wa.gov/hornets. Provide as much detail as you can about what you saw and where. Also, include a photo if you can safely obtain one, and if you come across a dead specimen keep it for potential testing.