Two More Live Asian Giant Hornets Spotted in Whatcom County — Is There Another Nest?

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Two more confirmed live Asian Giant Hornets — frequently referred to as "Murder Hornets" — have been sighted in Whatcom County, the Washington State Department of Agriculture reported on Wednesday, Sept. 8.

The news comes two weeks after the Department of Agriculture successfully eradicated an Asian Giant Hornet nest just east of Blaine. Nearly 1,500 Asian Giant Hornets in various stages of development were found inside that nest.

"One nest down but the work continues! Two new confirmed sightings in the general area of the 2020 and 2021 #AsianGiantHornet nest eradications," a Department of Agriculture post on Twitter read.

So does Wednesday's tweet that more hornets have been spotted in Whatcom County mean there are more nests?

"Possibly. We are working to tag and track the hornets to determine that," the department responded on Twitter.

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 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 were able to get away should die within the next few weeks due to their life cycle.

"Our data right now from trapping and reports do not suggest there are any additional nests," Spichiger said during an online briefing about the nest eradication, "but that's why it's so important for the public to keep submitting reports."

The team plans to have the DNA of hornets from this year's nest compared to that from last year's nest and one found in British Columbia to see how they are related, Spichiger said.

The Department of Agriculture showed the nest that that was eradicated last year during the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden last month, and Spichiger said the exhibition was "very well received."

"We're very grateful to the public that helped us with their reports this time around," Spichiger said. "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."

Chasing 'Murder Hornets'

The first live Asian giant hornet sighted in 2021 in Washington state was found attacking a paper wasp nest in a rural area of northern Whatcom County Aug. 11. Later that same week, the Department of Agriculture trapped and tagged three live hornets.

"Both hornets were tagged, given a pre-flight strawberry jam meal, and released," a department Facebook post said.

Though one of the hornets was able to slip its tracker and another was never located, the Department of Agriculture announced Aug. 20 that the third hornet had led the team to the nest.

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.

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 Thursday's 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 hornets@agr.wa.gov, 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.

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