A live giant Asian hornet was captured near Blaine, Washington, which has been the ground zero area all summer in the search for these honeybee destroyers. This was the first live capture by Washington state agriculture agents.
Unfortunately, a tagging attempt failed because the radio tag tracking device glue got on the wing of the invasive insect, which was wriggling around. The glue didn’t dry fast enough so the tag slid off, but not before the insect’s wings touched the glue, grounding it.
According to entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger with Washington State Department of Agriculture, local residents spotted the so-called “murder hornet” which was attacking a paper wasp nest at a site just east of Blaine. They immediately reported it to authorities, knowing there is a concerted effort to eradicate these hornets before they become established.
If a radio tag can be affixed to a hornet, it can be tracked back to its nest so the entire nest can be destroyed. Spichiger says agriculture agents are optimistic they will soon have another opportunity to tag a hornet because they have pinpointed and set some traps that will catch them alive, in an area where they are concentrated.
They are watching the area closely because it seems they are dealing with a single nest. Now they also have learned how to tie a tracker tag on correctly.
This 1:42-minute video by King 5 gives a recent update on how agents are searching for an Asian giant hornet nest in Washington state:
This is the time of year when these giant Asian hornets attack honeybees and decapitate them. If they aren’t stopped and wiped out, according to a new study by WSU researchers, within 20 years they could kill off local honeybee populations in western Washington and Oregon. This would also endanger the crops that depend on honeybees for pollination.
Agents hope to locate the nest within a couple of weeks, if not sooner, and eradicate it. They have also set up 30 live traps and are testing a new “exclusion device” which provides a special grate that blocks giant hornets from entering but allows honeybees to escape. They have placed beehives in the areas where hornets were spotted as bait to test this device.
In the past week, in the Blaine, Washington area, there have been six credible sightings of these invasive hornets, according to Spichiger. A total of fifteen have been found since they were first seen in Washington in 2019.
The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest species of hornet, growing to nearly 2 inches long. Their venom is more toxic than honeybee venom and their stingers are longer. People should not try to catch or kill them, they don’t normally attack humans or pets, but they will if they are threatened. If you see one, report where and when you saw the hornet and which direction it was flying in. This can help agents to find the nest.
These Asian giant hornets are native to Asian forests, and in late summer and fall they attack beehives to destroy entire bee colonies so they can feed their brood and produce new queens. It only takes a few hornets that go into a “slaughter” phase to decapitate all the bees in a hive within a couple of hours, killing them all. Honeybees are defenseless against them.
Other important pollinators like yellow jackets and native wasps are also threatened by these invasive hornets.
According to Spichiger, there are a number of heavily wooded areas in these surroundings which could make it hard to find the exact location of the nest. Nevertheless, they are confident they will track it down.