The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced on Friday that it had trapped its first Asian giant hornet in the northern most part of the state near the Canadian border.
“The hornet was found in a WSDA trap set near Birch Bay in Whatcom County,” the department said. “WSDA trappers checked the bottle trap on July 14 and submitted the contents for processing at WSDA’s entomology lab. The hornet was identified during processing on July 29. This was the first hornet to be detected in a trap, rather than found in the environment as the state’s five previous confirmed sightings were.”
Sven Spichiger, managing entomologist for the department said, “This is encouraging because it means we know that the traps work, but it also means we have work to do.”
Officials say that their next steps are to search for nests using infrared cameras while continuing to place additional traps in the area, including special traps that are designed to keep the Asian giant hornets alive. Officials want to catch live specimens so they can be tagged and released with the hopes that they will lead officials to their nests, which will then be eradicated.
“WSDA hopes to find and destroy the nest by mid-September before the colony would begin creating new reproducing queens and drones,” the department added. “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.”
Officials say that residents are most likely to see Asian giant hornets in August and September because the number of “Asian giant hornet workers increases as a colony develops.”
A photograph released by the department shows that the specimen that it caught was approximately 2 inches long.
Washington has trapped its first #AsianGiantHornet. Press conference will be live streamed on TVW at 10 a.m. Link to the press conference is in the news release. https://t.co/NGS7EfKmj3 pic.twitter.com/5ZHmhSde67
— WA St Dept of Agr (@WSDAgov) July 31, 2020
A second photo released by the department compared the specimen to the typical size of a worker and a queen from the same species.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) releases a second photo the Asian giant hornet that it caught last month in a trap. pic.twitter.com/uucc0YiMvc
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) August 1, 2020
In late June, the department released a side-by-side photo comparing the size of the Asian giant hornet to a European honey bee, which is the predominate pollinating species in the U.S.
The department released the following information about why Asian giant hornets are a threat to the European honey bee:
Asian giant hornets are extremely large hornets that range in size from 1.5 to over 2 inches long. They are equipped with relatively massive mandibles (teeth) and can easily tear honey bees in half. Usually, these hornets will not attack honey bees until late summer or early fall, when workers are feeding new queens and males within the colony that will emerge to mate in the fall.
When attacking a honey bee colony, the hornet excretes a pheromone marker on the hive to signal to others that the colony is its target. Up to fifty hornets attack the colony at once and can eliminate an entire honey bee colony in less than two hours. The hornets harvest bee brood to feed to their young and will defend the bee hive as if it were their own nest.
Officials say that to date the Asian giant hornet has not been discovered in any other U.S. state.
— WA St Dept of Agr (@WSDAgov) June 22, 2020
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