BIRCH BAY, Wash. — The first Asian giant hornet trapped in Washington and the U.S. will ignite an attempt to catch a live one, follow it back to its nest and destroy the nest in a night-time raid, state Department of Agriculture entomologist Sven Spichiger said Friday, July 31.
The hornet was collected from a department trap July 14 near Birch Bay in Whatcom County. State entomologists determined late Wednesday, July 29, that it was an Asian giant hornet.
The other five hornets found in the U.S. near the Canadian border since late last year had been found outside traps.
The concerted trapping effort began at the start of July, when worker hornets could be expected to emerge from nests.
“This detection unfortunately means we did get a nest that was able to get established,” Spichiger said.
The Asian giant hornet is the largest hornet in the world, known to carry out mass attacks on bee hives. When one hornet finds a hive, it releases a pheromone that attracts more hornets.
Bee colonies are usually lost, according to an environmental assessment by USDA. The hornets also attack beetles, caterpillars and spiders.
The state and volunteers have put out traps baited with orange juice and rice wine. The state will now hang traps near Birch Bay with screens to catch a hornet before it drowns.
If one is caught alive, entomologists will sedate it, glue an electronic tracking device to it and let it go. The method for tracking hornets has been pioneered at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.
“We have a lot of confidence this will work here,” Spichiger said.
The agriculture department has been testing on bald-faced hornets.
“We have had just a little bit of practice,” Spichiger said.
To save money, the department has not practiced with real tracking devices. The models being considered by the department cost from $40 to $283.
“We actually kind of like the $40 option,” Spichiger said.
Asian giant hornets nest in the ground. If one is found, entomologists will wear protective gear and approach at night with red lamps, preventing the stinging wasps from seeing them.
The department plans to use two insecticides, cyfluthrin and fipronil.
State entomologists suspect the hornet trapped near Birch Bay was a worker hornet, rather than a queen. It has been sent to a USDA laboratory to be dissected. It was trapped about 6 miles from where the first hornet was found in December.