Washington State Department of Agriculture officials have been on full-time Asian giant hornet alert since the December 2019 find in the state. Citizen scientists have been setting up traps in an effort to find these insects, and the effort finally paid off.
A property in Blaine, Wash., is home to the first Asian giant hornet's nest found in the United States. And the plans to attempt an eradication Saturday, Oct. 24. A move to eradicate the next today, Oct. 23, were delayed due to bad weather.
The work to find the nest came after a WSDA trapper collected two live Asian giant hornets on Tuesday, Oct. 21. The bugs were caught in a new type of trap the agency had placed in the area. Two more hornets, also living, were found in another trap the next morning when WSDA staff arrived in the area to tag the previously trapped hornets.
The agency has been applying radio trackers in an effort to follow the insect back to the next. Tied to the hornet's body using dental floss (glue was not working), the approach has only helped determine direction – until now. The entomologists were able to attach radio trackers to three hornets, and the second led them to discovery of the next.
The next is inside the cavity of a tree on private property near an area cleared for a residential home. While Asian giant hornets normally next in the ground, they are occasionally found nesting in dead trees. Dozens of the hornets have been seen entering and exiting the tree while the WSDA team was present.
The property owner has provided permission for WSDA staff to eradicate the next and remove the tree, if necessary.
At work for months
WSDA has been actively searching for Asian giant hornet nests since the first such hornets were caught earlier this year. The first confirmed detection of an Asian giant hornet in Washington was made in December 2019 and the first hornet trapped in July of this year. Several more were subsequently caught, all in Whatcom County.
Using a network of traps, some set by WSDA staff and hundreds more placed by citizen scientists and other cooperators throughout the state, the entomologists have been diligently tracking sightings of the Asian giant hornet in an ongoing effort to find nests to eliminate them.
Asian giant hornets, an invasive pest not native to the U.S., are the world’s largest hornet and a predator of honeybees and other insects. A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire honeybee hive in a matter of hours.
Visit agr.wa.gov/hornets to learn more about Asian giant hornets and the state’s trapping and eradication project.