State gears up for Asian giant hornet trapping, spotting season

Jun 1, 2021, 5:16 PM | Updated: Jun 2, 2021, 6:00 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)

The arrival of June means that we are just a month away from Asian giant hornet season.

Entomologists with the Washington State Department of Agriculture, who last year found and destroyed a giant hornet nest near Blaine, are once again finalizing plans to get out and start trapping for the invasive hornets in Whatcom County.

Residents of the area are also encouraged to help with trapping beginning July 1, when more of the hornets are expected to start emerging. Before that point, it’s far more likely that the traps would catch native, helpful insects instead. You can find instructions for making your own DIY giant hornet trap on the Department of Agriculture’s website.

Even if you don’t make a trap, you can still help with your eyes. The department is asking people in Whatcom County — along with neighboring counties like Skagit, San Juan, Island, Jefferson, and Clallam — to keep an eye out for hornets.

Asian giant hornets ‘could start emerging any day now,’ says WSDA

This does not mean, however, that entomologists are counting on finding hornets in more than one county this year. Karla Salp, communications specialist for the state Department of Agriculture, said the hornets usually don’t fly too far from the nest, and it’s unlikely they would have made it out of the Blaine-Birch Bay region.

“We expect them to be in the same sort of general area where they were detected last year, … the most likely scenario is that they’re still in that Whatcom County area,” she said.

If you see an Asian giant hornet, call the department’s tip-line right away at 800-443-6684, or submit a report here. If you can get a photo to go along with your report, it is much appreciated by scientists.

However, you may want to do a quick check to make sure that the suspected hornet is not actually an elm sawfly. Salp said the department is getting quite a few reports of this common insect, which can look a lot like Asian giant hornets. There some key distinctions, Salp noted.

“The body has more yellow on the abdomen, as opposed to the Asian giant hornet, which has more orange-ish and black stripes on it,” she said. “And also, another couple of differences, the Asian giant hornet has a huge, orange head. The elm sawfly has a small, black head.”

Additionally, unlike the giant hornets, the elm sawfly has clubbed antennae.

If you’re not sure, that’s OK; Salp said when in doubt, you should always report a sighting that you believe could be a hornet. She noted that last year, reports by individual residents played a huge role in leading to the nest that was caught.

While that nest and its inhabitants were eradicated, entomologists believed at the time that there could be two other nests in downtown Blaine and Birch Bay, respectively. If that was the case, then mated queens from those nests could have emerged this spring and gone off to start new nests. Salp noted that it is also possible a few of the hundreds of mated queens in the destroyed nest could have escaped.

“It’s likely we got most of the queens, but we can’t say for sure that we got all of them. So there could be queens out there from that nest, there could be other nests out there that we didn’t get that may have produced queens. So in that case, we’d be looking at several new nests,” she said. “Obviously, not all of those would survive and go on to produce a new nest, but we could be looking at new nests this year. That seems like a likely scenario.”

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State gears up for Asian giant hornet trapping, spotting season