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Crews track captured Asian giant hornet to first nest discovery of year near Blaine

Aug. 20, 2021 Updated Fri., Aug. 20, 2021 at 6:29 p.m.

This image shows the Asian giant hornet nest found near Blaine, Wash.  (Courtesy photo)
This image shows the Asian giant hornet nest found near Blaine, Wash. (Courtesy photo)

A day after Washington agriculture officials held a training session with their cohorts from Oregon, the Oregon crew tracked an Asian giant hornet to the first nest of the invasive species found this year.

The discovery Thursday follows the first sighting last week when a homeowner captured an image of an Asian giant hornet, also known as a murder hornet, attacking a paper wasp nest at a home near Blaine, Washington.

Karla Salp, spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Agriculture, said crews then set traps and caught three live specimens of the world’s largest hornet and then tagged them to use them to try to find their nest.

One hornet escaped, the tracker fell off another one, but the third hornet was the charm, she said. The nest was located about a quarter mile from where the hornet was photographed last week and less than two miles from the nest that was located and eradicated last year in Whatcom County.

“The day before we located the nest, we had training for the Oregon staff to learn about all aspects of the Asian giant hornet project, from setting traps to tagging to eradicating,” Salp said. “They went out in the field with us yesterday and put those skills from the training to work.”

The teams split up, and a group from Oregon with a representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture found the nest.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this innovative pest prevention work in Washington,” said Jake Bodart, with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, in a news release. “While Asian giant hornets have not yet been detected in Oregon, we are pleased to participate and learn first-hand from our partners on what it takes to respond to introductions of this emerging pest.”

Stacy Herron, a USDA official who has been assisting state efforts, said she was glad to share the information with Oregon officials even though the Asian giant hornet has thus far only been found in a small area of Northwest Washington.

“Finding the nest with (Bodart) one day after simulating tagging and tracking in training was a very rewarding experience and demonstrates just how valuable the WSDA training was,” Herron said.

Now that the nest has been discovered, Salp said planning is underway to best remove it and eliminate the hornets, which are native to Southeast Asia and are believed to have come to Washington from a ship or shipping container.

“We are gathering a bit more information and creating a plan to actually remove the nest,” Salp said. “One of the things we are going to try to do is get out our FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) camera to do some thermal imaging of the tree to see if they are going down into the ground or up into the tree.

“That obviously impacts what we have to do to remove the nest,” she continued.

Researchers had several more sightings of hornets in the area, but they believe that had mostly to do with the proximity of the nest.

“It’s especially good that we were able to find it so early in the season,” Salp said. “It’s two months ahead of when we found the nest last year.”

The nests typically do not produce queens, that then spread out to create new nests, until the fall, she said.

“Hopefully, we were able to get it so early that no nest will be created next year from the nest we detected,” Salp said.

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