Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) officials tasked with the tracking and eradication of the Asian giant hornet (AGH) in Washington held a press conference today, October 2nd, after what they referred to as a very busy couple of weeks.
As reported earlier, they were contacted by a property owner east of Blaine who had photographed an AGH seen repeatedly visiting a paper wasp nest. That property owner put up a bottle trap and soon had captured a AGH. They then contacted WSDA and an official, who happened to be nearby, came out to visit the property. While the official was onsite, an AGH was seen flying in the area and was able to be captured alive with a net.
The live specimen provided the first opportunity to attach a electronic tracking device to an AGH and release it back into the wild in the hope it would lead officials to its nest. But, as prior practice using bald-faced hornets had shown, attaching a tracking device is much easier on hairy bees than with less hairy hornets.
The tracking device was glued to the live AGH but fell off before the glue could dry. Tying a tracking device to the AGH was then attempted but 1 of the AGH’s wings had come in contact with the glue rendering it unable to fly. This left officials to wait for their next opportunity.
There were a total of 5 recently confirmed sightings in the east Blaine area including the previously mentioned sightings and captures as well as a dead AGH located by a streetlight and another photographed by a doorbell camera. A total of 14 confirmed AGH sightings have been made in Washington according to officials. 8 have been in Blaine, 3 in the Birch Bay, 2 in Custer and 1 in Bellingham.
Officials say that based upon the confirmed sightings, they are assuming there is a nest in the Birch Bay area and another in the east Blaine area. 30 live capture traps have been set across the area.
AGHs are of particular concern to beekeepers because they are capable of quickly destroying honeybee hives. During the late summer and into the fall they are known to raid bee hives, using their large mandibles to decapitate the bees and destroying an entire colony in just a few hours. They will take their victims’ bodies back to the nest to feed their young.
WSDA officials said they have put out several honey bee hives in the area equipped with experimental devices to live trap AGHs.
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.
There have been no reports of attacks on bee hives so far this year WSDA officials said today.
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:
Washington State Department of Agriculture website
WSDA officials warn there are some native non-evasive species that are often mistaken for an AGH.