While its lore remains more rampant than its actual spread, the Washington State Department of Agriculture has announced the first capture of a male Asian giant hornet in one of about 450 traps concentrated in the extreme northwest region of the state where other sightings have been confirmed.
The male was caught in a trap on July 29 near Custer, which is north of Ferndale and south of Blaine. It’s also where two of the large stinging insects were found in December. It makes a total of seven of the invasive species that have been located in the state, and the second specimen caught in a trap, since they were first discovered last year.
The male was caught in a state trap in the same general area where an observant resident spotted a queen Asian giant hornet dead along a roadway on May 27, said Karla Salp, a public engagement specialist for the Agriculture Department.
“We think it’s highly probable from a nest that over-wintered,” Salp said. “That suggests that at least one nest over-wintered that we need to find and eradicate before it puts out breeding hornets.”
The invasive species, which is believed to have come from either Japan or South Korea, is the world’s largest hornet and hunts other insects. Honeybees are among its favorite prey. A small number of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire beehive in a matter of hours, Salp said.
The state also caught an unmated queen in a trap on July 14. But the catch of the male on July 29 initially raised some concern over its timing, she said.
“We initially weren’t expecting to see (males) until September. Then we did more research and learned that males do start emerging during the first week of August,” Salp said. “So, finding one on July 29 was not as surprising as we first thought.”
While the male wasn’t in the exact same area as the queen from May 27, it was caught in a trap near a beehive that researchers believe had been raided by Asian giant hornets last year, Salp said.
State officials have no reason to believe that the Asian giant hornets have moved eastward. “They are not confirmed outside of Whatcom County,” Salp said.
The state has received a ton of interest from residents, who have placed about 1,400 traps specifically designed to catch the 2-inch-long hornets. She noted the holes in commercial yellow jacket traps are too small for the larger Asian giant hornets to enter.
“We’ve had a tremendous response from citizen scientists,” she said. “Our traps are concentrated in areas of previous detections, so we have a better chance” of catching them.
Because Asian giant hornet workers increase as a colony develops, the state officials believe that more sightings are likely later in the summer .
Anyone who thinks they have seen one should report it at agr.wa.gov/hornets. Researchers ask that spotters provide as much detail as they can about what they saw and where. Residents are asked to include a photo if they can safely obtain one. Anyone who finds a dead specimen is asked to keep it for potential testing.
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