For the second time this year, the Washington State Department of Agriculture destroyed a nest built by Asian Giant Hornets — commonly known as "Murder Hornets" — over the weekend and found a third nest in Whatcom County that it plans to eradicate soon.
"The second Asian giant hornet nest of 2021 has been eradicated. It had four combs," a Department of Agriculture Facebook post Saturday, Sept. 11., read. "Our team did an incredible job today."
The second nest was located in northern Whatcom County, the department reported Sept. 10. It is the second nest located in the U.S. in 2021, both of which have been in Whatcom County.
But the team also reported that it had found a third nest in the "same general area," according to a Department of Agriculture tweet on Saturday.
"Our work is not complete," the department's Facebook post said. "A third nest this season has been located and plans are underway for eradication."
Both posts said more information would be coming soon.
The four combs found in the second nest are less than half the nine combs the team found in the first nest that was destroyed last month. That nest had more than 1,500 Asian Giant Hornets in various stages of development.
The newest nest is the fourth built by Asian Giant Hornet located in Whatcom County the past two years.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture confirmed two new reports of Asian Giant Hornet sightings by the public in north Whatcom County. Crews tagged and released a live hornet in an attempt to track it back to a potential nest, according to a Department of Agriculture Facebook post Thursday, and that is what led them to the discovery of the nest that was eradicated over the weekend.
It is not yet known how the third nest was located.
Thursday's post also reported the first successful bottle trap catch of an Asian Giant Hornet this year.
First 'Murder Hornet' nest
Friday's news comes just over two weeks after the Department of Agriculture successfully eradicated an Asian Giant Hornet nest just east of Blaine and approximately a quarter mile from the Canadian border.
Nearly 1,500 Asian Giant Hornets in various stages of development were found inside that nest, the department said in a release at the time.
Community reports of Asian Giant Hornet sightings earlier this summer led to tagging and tracking hornets and led experts to the nest that they eradicated Aug. 25, which was the first nest spotted in the U.S. this year.
Another Whatcom County nest was located and eradicated last year.
This year's first nest was found at the base of a dead, decaying alder tree in a rural area of the county east of Blaine.
While most of the approximately 1,500 hornets were destroyed, Department of Agriculture Managing Entomologist Sven Spichiger said some non-breeding hornets were taken to a lab in Wapato for experimental testing.
Though the team netted most of the hornets that escaped during the eradication, Spichiger said any that were able to get away should die within the next few weeks due to their life cycle.
Spichiger said at the time he was hopeful there were not any additional nests, but Friday's news showed otherwise.
"We're very grateful to the public that helped us with their reports this time around," Spichiger said after eradicating the first nest. "The folks that originally reported the live hornets allowed us unfettered access to their property. We really can't get this done if people are not as helpful as they were. We're thankful the property owners where the nest was found were so cooperative."
What are 'Murder Hornets'?
Up to 2 inches long, the Asian giant hornet, or Vespa mandarinia, is the world's largest hornet species. They are identifiable by their large yellow/orange heads. The hornets are known for their painful stings.
They will attack people and pets when threatened, and tried to attack the team eradicating their nest in August, though the team's hornet suits prevented team members from being stung. People should be extremely cautious near them, state agriculture officials have said, and those who have allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings should never approach an Asian Giant Hornet, according to earlier reporting in The Bellingham Herald.
The invasive hornets are feared for the threat they pose to honeybees and, by extension, the valuable crops in Washington state that the bees pollinate, including blueberry and other cane crops in the region that includes Whatcom County.
They also prey on local pollinators such as wasps, posing a threat to the local ecosystem, state entomologists have said.
Before the sightings that led to the discovery of the two nests in Whatcom County this year, a dead Asian Giant Hornet was located near Marysville in mid-June.
The Department of Agriculture will continue to trap Asian giant hornets through the end of November, according to a previous release, adding that instructions on how to build traps can be found on the agency's website.
The Department of Agriculture's annual budget for community outreach, tracking and eradication of the Asian Giant Hornet is approximately $650,000, Spichiger said.
Spot a 'Murder Hornet'?
Washington state residents can report possible sightings of an Asian giant hornet to the state Department of Agriculture online at agr.wa.gov/hornets, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 1-800-443-6684.
Take a photo or keep a specimen if you can. They're needed for confirmation.
Citizen science trapping instructions also are on the website.
More on the department's Asian giant hornet effort can be found at facebook.com/groups/hornets.