Asian giant hornet season wraps up after no sightings in three months

Dec 9, 2021, 4:49 PM
Asian giant hornet...
Jenni Cena, pest biologist and trapping supervisor from the Washington State Department of Agriculture, sets a trap designed to catch Asian Giant Hornets on July 29, 2020, in Bellingham, Washington. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

In snowy Whatcom County, scientists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) are busy picking up the last of the Asian giant hornet traps before the hornets’ winter hibernation.

Public Engagement Specialist Karla Salp told KIRO Radio that it was a successful year, with three giant hornet nests discovered and eradicated in August and September near Blaine.

In the three months since the third eradication, the hornets have stayed fairly quiet.

“Since that last nest was eradicated, we have not detected any further Asian giant hornets in Washington this year,” Salp said.

WSDA runs into challenges with third Asian giant hornet nest of 2021

That has the WSDA cautiously hopeful, though Salp said it is far too early to declare victory over the hornets. State entomologist Sven Spichiger said earlier this year that the state would need to go years without a sighting to call the hornets eradicated.

“It’s definitely encouraging that we’ve not had any additional catches, but it’s way too early at this point to say whether that means we got them all, or whether they could pop up again next year or the year after,” Salp said.

There is another reason to be optimistic: Unlike last year’s nest, which was eradicated in late October and contained about 200 virgin queens — the hornets that fly off and create new nests — the three nests eradicated this year were gone before they produced any queens.

“This year, we eradicated those three nests long before they produced any virgin queens that could emerge, mate, and go off to start new nests,” Salp said. “So we’re fairly confident there will be no new nests from the ones that we did eradicate.”

Still, the assumption is that there are still hornets out there, so trapping season will begin anew next summer. WSDA entomologists are considering using drones to watch for hornets, especially in areas that are hard to walk through due to blackberry brambles.

People who want to take part in the effort are asked to be on the lookout for queens in the spring, and to put up their own hornet traps at the beginning of July as the males start to emerge. People can then report their findings each week, reporting anything suspicious to WSDA. To learn how to make your own trap, visit WSDA’s website.

The citizen scientist effort was no small part of this year’s fight against the hornets. Salp said two of the three nests this year were found based off homeowners’ reports.

“That’s really encouraging to see, just kind of the whole community that’s built up around this effort. … If we are successful, it’s as much a credit to the community as it will be to WSDA,” Salp said.

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Asian giant hornet season wraps up after no sightings in three months