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Photo of an Asian giant hornet trapped in Birch Bay on July 14, 2020. Source: WSDA

Asian giant hornet caught in Birch Bay trap

Last updated on August 7, 2020

Officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced this morning, July 31st, that an Asian giant hornet had been caught in a trap located in Birch Bay. This is the 6th confirmed Asian giant hornet in Washington state and all 6 have been located in western Whatcom County.

The hornet was found in a WSDA trap set near Birch Bay according to the announcement. WSDA trappers checked the bottle trap on July 14th and submitted the contents for processing at WSDA’s entomology lab. The hornet was identified during processing on July 29th. This was the first hornet to be detected in a trap in Washington, rather than found in the environment as were the 5 previous confirmed sightings.

The announcement did not specify whether this specimen was a worker or queen hornet. During a press conference following the announcement, a WSDA official said the size is right between worker and queen size (see image below). As a result, the specimen has been sent to a lab and WSDA officials are awaiting results of a dissection to determine the type. On August 7th, it was announced the trapped hornet was an unmated queen.

Source: Washington State Department of Agriculture (July 31, 2020)

“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.”

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The trap is 1 of of 467 WSDA traps and another 297 traps by cooperating agencies that have been set in the area.

WSDA officials say their 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.

The goal is 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 Asian giant 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 volunteers have placed over 1,300 other traps in Washington state. Anyone interested in trapping can still build and set traps on their own property. Traps require weekly bait replacement and delivering the trap contents to the WSDA via mail or by taking to a drop off location.

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This story was updated at 10:30am with information from WSDA about the specific location of the trap, the answer to the question about whether a worker or queen hornet and the number of WSDA traps that have been set.

This story was again updated at 2:40pm on August 7th to include new information about the trapped hornet (unmated queen).

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