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Murder hornet, giant hornet
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State traps first Asian giant hornet near Birch Bay, plans nest eradication

A giant hornet seen in northern Washington earlier this year. (Photo credit: Joel Nielsen)

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has trapped its first Asian giant hornet near Birch Bay.

This comes after the hornets have been spotted in the same area in Bellingham, Custer, and Blaine, as well as just across the border in Langley, British Columbia. Last year, an entire nest was found in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

“This detection unfortunately means that we did get a nest that was able to establish somewhere there in the Birch Bay area,” said Sven-Erik Spichiger, an entomologist with the Department of Agriculture, in a press conference on Friday.

The large, orange-colored hornets have earned the nickname “murder hornets” because of the way they prey on smaller bees, destroying entire hives of thousands of honey bees. The giant hornets do not target humans, but their stings can be painful, and — in rare cases, such as allergic reactions — deadly.

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The state set up hundreds of traps in Whatcom County this spring after the sightings, and others have been set up by members of the public. The Asian giant hornet found at Birch Bay was caught in a bottle trap. The state believes it is a worker, rather than a queen.

The next step will be to set up live traps, so entomologists can track and follow the hornets to locate their nest. Spichiger said the plan is to eradicate the nest before the fall mating season — to prevent a new generation of Asian giant hornets from being born in Washington.

“We’re giving ourselves a deadline of early- to mid-September,” Spichiger said. “And we hope to locate the nest this came from prior to that.”

Spichiger said considering that a giant hornet was seen in nearby Langley, there’s a small chance the trapped hornet could have come from across the border in British Columbia — but the nest is probably American.

“They are capable of foraging up to 8 kilometers, about 5 miles, and so it’s entirely possible that this was on the far outskirts of this range,” Spichiger said. “But the greater likelihood is that it’s within 1 to 2 kilometers of where we trapped the insect.”

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