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WSDA staff track an Asian giant hornet equipped with a tracking device (October 7, 2020). Photo: Washington State Department of Agriculture.

WSDA have better success tracking a live Asian giant hornet in east Blaine

Officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced today, October 12th, they made a second attempt at tracking a live-captured Asian giant hornet (AGH) to be able to locate its nest.

According to today’s announcement, a resident of east Blaine captured a live AGH on October 5th and provided it to WSDA. It was placed in the cooler to keep it calm. The next day, WSDA returned the AGH to the site where it was captured to attempt to tag and track it back to its nest. The tracking device experienced a technical issue which could not be resolved that day and the hornet was fed strawberry jelly and returned to cooler.

The second day after being captured the hornet was again returned to the capture site, this time WSDA were equipped with new tracking devices. According to WSDA officials, these trackers functioned as designed and they were able to successfully tie 1 to the hornet using dental floss.

A tracking device is being attached to a live-captured Asian giant hornet before its release (October 7, 2020). Video courtesy of Washington State Department of Agriculture.

Several neighbors showed up during the release and were instructed to install a smartphone app on their phones to assist in tracking the hornet after it had been released.

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The hornet was placed in an apple tree and WSDA staff observed it as it warmed up and crawled onto an apple, groomed itself and then took flight.

A live-captured Asian giant hornet equipped with a tracking device being released (October 7, 2020). Video courtesy of Washington State Department of Agriculture.

WSDA officials said the hornet immediately spiraled upward about 40 feet as it attempted to get reoriented. It landed and rested high up in a tree, flew to another tree where it appeared to rest again. It then flew into dense blackberry vegetation near the ground where the signal was lost. Soon after, the signal reappeared briefly showing the hornet entering a forested area.

This tracking occurred for about an hour and WSDA staff and neighbors spent the rest of the afternoon unsuccessfully searching the area to regain the signal. The tracking devices are expected to transmit for about 12 hours.

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WSDA staff said during a press conference today, they were happy to identify the general direction the AGH was heading and said all these experiences are leading toward being able to locate and eradicate a nest.

WSDA officials said a vacuum process is expected to be used instead of pesticides to perform nest eradications. Eradication were be done in the evening when all the hornets are expected to be inside. Once the vacuum process has been completed, a gas would be injected into the nest to kill any remaining hornets and then the nest would be backfilled.

Radio transponders with a longer range and battery life have been ordered according to WSDA officials.

The public is strongly encouraged to continue reporting any possible sightings. These have been key to identifying possible nest locations so far.

There are several ways to report suspected sightings in Washington State: 

* Report using the Hornet Watch Report Form
* Email hornets@agr.wa.gov
* Call 1-800-443-6684 (Please only call if you do not have access to email. You will get a much quicker response via email.) 

Washington State Department of Agriculture website

Washington state beekeepers are asked to stay alert and to call (360) 902-1880 in the event the come upon an active hive attack. “Consider this like a 911 call,” explained WSDA Public Engagement Specialist Karla Salp. She said they would dispatch staff immediately in the hope of capturing live specimens and being able to track them to the nest. “Also please report the direction they are flying to and from the hive during the attack,” she added. The information collected will help minimize the potential for future hive attacks.

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