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WSDA staff and a film crew track an Asian giant hornet equipped with a tracking device in east Blaine (October 22, 2020). Courtesy of WSDA

WSDA officials announce plans to eradicate Asian giant hornets’ nest found inside tree

Officials with the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced today, October 23rd, they located an Asian giant hornet (AGH) nest in east Blaine yesterday. The nest, described as the size of a basketball based upon its heat signature, is located in a cavity about 8-feet up a tree with a 20-inch diameter trunk. They had been expecting to locate AGH nests in the ground and were making plans of how to eradicate ground nests.

Finding the nest above ground in a tree cavity means having to reconsider their methods for eradication WSDA officials said during a press conference today and they were taking today to adjust their plan of attack which will be put into action tomorrow, Saturday, October 24th.

An unexpected change of plans needing to bring in and set up scaffolding around the tree to be able to reach the nest. They will continue with a planned vacuum extraction method that was developed to be used for ground nests. In this case though, they will wrap the tree in plastic wrap to reduce the number of escaped AGHs instead of using a pup tent as would have been done over a ground nest.

The process will begin by sealing up the nest openings using dense foam padding and then inserting a vacuum nozzle into the nest through the foam. The AGHs will be then vacuumed live into a collection container so they can be studied.

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WSDA staff who will be performing the eradication will be wearing special suits officials said during today’s press conference. The suits are white, “like a space suit,” and made of a thick material made of light foam. The suits are equipped with a ventilation fan in the helmet and a face shield. The thick fabric is intended to protect the wearer from the unusually long stingers AGHs are equipped with. “And they will be stinging the suits. So we are hoping the material is thick enough,” one official said.

A WSDA official noted the face shield is important since it will protect the wearer from venom sprayed by the AGHs. He said spraying venom is something AGHs do when their nests are being attacked and unless planning on attacking a nest, which no one should do, the public should not be concerned about being sprayed by venom.

There is a possibility the tree cavity may be a annex location to a permanent nest elsewhere, but so far that does not appear to be the case according to officials.

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WSDA officials will continue to monitor and deploy live traps in the east Blaine area and also in west Blaine and Birch Bay areas where AGHs had been trapped in recent months. They are not assuming this is the only nest.

They also said there have been no reported bee hive attacks yet but that we are getting to the time of the year when those are most likely to occur.

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