The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) trapped its first Asian giant hornet this month.
The hornet was found in a WSDA trap set near Birch Bay in Whatcom County. WSDA trappers checked the bottle trap on July 14 and submitted the contents for processing at WSDA’s entomology lab. The hornet was identified during processing on July 29. This was the first hornet to be detected in a trap, rather than found in the environment as the state’s five previous confirmed sightings were.
“This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work,” Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the department said. “But it also means we have work to do.”
WSDA’s next steps are to search for nests using infrared cameras and place additional 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 their colony. Once located, the agency will eradicate the colony.
WSDA hopes to find and destroy the nest by mid-September before the colony would begin creating new reproducing queens and drones. Until that time, the colony will only contain the queen and worker hornets. Destroying the nest before new queens emerge and mate will prevent the spread of this invasive pest.
In addition to the traps that WSDA has set to catch Asian giant hornets, citizen scientist and other cooperators have placed over 1,300 traps. Those interested in trapping can still build and set traps on their own 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 1.800.443.6684.
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.