Land owner describes ‘exciting’ hunt for ‘murder hornets’ nest

Oct 23, 2020, 1:23 PM | Updated: Oct 24, 2020, 10:06 am
Murder hornets, Asian giant hornets, giant hornet, invasive insects...
The first ever Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S. was found in Blaine, Washington. (WSDA)

Entomologists found an Asian giant hornet nest this week in Blaine, Washington, the first one ever located in the United States. Josie Shelton owns the 40-acre wooded property the nest was found on, and described her experience to Dori Monson Show guest host Jack Stine.

Entomologists find first US Asian giant hornet nest near Blaine

The Asian giant hornet is the world’s largest hornet at nearly two inches long, and a dangerous predator of honey bees, able to destroy an entire hive in a matter of hours. It’s not typically aggressive toward humans, but its sting can still pose a significant health threat.

State entomologists have been tracking the aptly-nicknamed “murder hornet” on Shelton’s property since late September. On Oct. 21, a trapper with the Washington State Department of Agriculture had two live Asian giant hornets caught in a new type of trap in the area. Two more hornets were found in another trap the morning of Oct. 22 when staff arrived to tag the previously trapped hornets and try to follow them back to a nest.

Radio trackers were attached to three hornets, one of which led them on a several-hour-long chase through the trails of the property. According to Shelton, they were initially searching for a ground nest. Roughly 30 to 40 feet off of a trail, though, they found “quite a few” hornets flying near a tree where the nest was ultimately found.

This ended a weeks-long hunt, for a process that Shelton describes as a memorable one to say the least.

“We’ve been purposefully walking the trails trying to kind of hunt them, so it’s been exciting,” she said.

Now that the nest has been located, the next step is to first remove the hornets, and then the tree itself.

“They are going to vacuum the bees out of the tree with a pool noodle and a Shop Vac,” she described.

Entomologists also have a device that can sense hotspots in the tree to pinpoint the best entry point for the vacuum to collect the hornets. Once they do that, the plan is to “suck out as many as they can.” They’ll then leave bait behind in the tree to capture any potential stragglers, before cutting down the tree, opening it up, and investigating the makeup of the nest.

State tracks live Asian giant hornet

All in all, it’s been quite the experience in a remote part of Washington that doesn’t often see a lot of excitement.

“We live kind of in the middle of nowhere and there’s not really a lot that happens,” Shelton said.

“People don’t even drive down our road ever, so it’s weird to see dozens of cars parked every day,” she added, noting that there’s also a Discovery Channel film crew shooting a documentary in the area, in addition to the numerous WSDA entomologists who have come and gone from the property in recent weeks.

The WSDA has been actively searching for nests since the first confirmed detection of an Asian giant hornet in Washington was made in December 2019 and the first hornet trapped in July 2020. Several more were subsequently caught, all in Whatcom County.

Learn more about the hornets and the state’s eradication project online here.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Land owner describes ‘exciting’ hunt for ‘murder hornets’ nest