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Washington gears up for second round of fight against Asian giant hornets

An Asian giant hornet peeks out of one of the cells in the nest found in a tree near Blaine. (Washington State Department of Agriculture Twitter)

The daffodils are sprouting, the clocks are springing forward, and in northwestern Whatcom County, the Asian giant hornets are about to begin waking up.

KIRO Radio is expecting an update this week from the Department of Agriculture about this year’s renewed effort to fight the invasive hornets.

Last fall, the department located and destroyed an Asian giant hornet nest on private property east of Blaine. The nest was the first of its kind to be found in the United States; Asian giant hornets have not been seen on American soil outside of Whatcom County, though they have been spotted just across the border in British Columbia.

Although the nest is gone — and, with it, hundreds of hornets — entomologists still believe that based on where hornets have been seen, there are other nests in downtown Blaine and the Birch Bay area. That means that this spring and summer will see a second year of work by the state to find and eradicate all of the Asian giant hornets before they gain a foothold.

Asian giant hornet trapping wraps up in December before hibernation

The hornets have been hibernating since the beginning of winter, but they’ll be waking up soon.

“The mated queens would emerge probably around April, sometime,” Department of Agriculture Public Engagement Specialist Karla Salp told KIRO Radio in December.

At that point, she said, those mated queens will start feeding on carbohydrate-rich food sources, such as tree sap.

“The mated queens will actually start building the new colony,” Salp explained. “They’ll lay worker eggs, and they’ll be doing all the work.”

After that, the workers will emerge and start doing the work for the queens.

And while the hornets have been sleeping, the state’s entomologists have been hard at work. Salp said at the time of the interview that state entomologists intended to spend the winter studying trapping methods that have been used in East Asia, the area to which the hornets are native, and analyzing which of those would work best here. That way, they’ll be ready to start looking for the queens when they emerge.

Overall, the Department of Agriculture remains hopeful the problem can be contained, because the hornets have not spread beyond the northwest corner of Whatcom County since they were first found here in 2019.

Asian giant hornets are colloquially called “murder hornets” because of the way they prey on smaller bees. However, while their stings are very painful to humans, they are only deadly to people in extremely rare cases.

If you spot a 2-inch-long, orange hornet, report it to the Department of Agriculture here.

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