It’s that time of year again: The days are getting longer, spring flowers are blooming and Asian giant hornets are waking up from winter hibernation.
Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) asks Blaine residents to continue reporting sightings of the world’s largest hornet now that queens are expected to emerge any day from their winter nests. In the springtime, the queens will search for a nest location, forage and prepare for workers expected to start emerging in July.
“We want to make sure we continue with our messages of, ‘If you see it, report it,’” said WSDA managing entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger.
Although the first nest in the U.S. was eradicated in east Blaine last October, WSDA officials warn more could still be in the area.
Spichiger previously said they found the nest just in time because new queens were preparing to leave and start their own nests. Entomologists said during the press conference it is also possible if two additional nests exist after hornet sightings in Birch Bay and Blaine proper last year.
Not including the hornets found in the eradicated nest, there were 31 confirmed hornet sightings in the U.S. last year – 15 trapped by WSDA and 16 found by Whatcom County residents. All of the six confirmed hornet detections in B.C. and half of Washington’s detections came from public reporting, WSDA public engagement specialist Karla Salp said during a media conference.
“The importance of participation from local residents really cannot be overstated,” Salp said.
Over 1,200 Washington residents hung homemade hornet traps made of orange juice and rice wine vinegar last year. When trapping begins again in July, WSDA will give citizen scientists the choice of using the orange juice mixture or a 1:1 ratio of brown sugar and water that entomologists said works just as well and is less expensive. The brown sugar lure will only need to be turned in once every two weeks, instead of weekly like the orange juice mixture, Spichiger said.
WSDA will start with 1,500 traps, one trap for every square kilometer grid, but will put up more traps if there are more detections. The agency will continue most of its work in north Whatcom County near areas that had detections last year, Spichiger said.
Even if no hornets are found this year, WSDA will need to have three consecutive years without detections to declare the area free of the invasive hornet.
Paul van Westendorp, provincial apiculturist for B.C., said during the press conference that there have been six sightings in B.C. after the first hornet nest in Canada was destroyed in Nanaimo in September 2019.
Van Westendorp, who leads B.C.’s hornet response, said he will focus on trapping in Fraser Valley, from White Rock to Aldergrove.
“This is not just a B.C. problem or a Washington problem, this is a collective problem that we try to address,” van Westendorp said.
The invasive hornet is thought to have arrived in North America by cargo from its native habitat in Asia.
The hornet measures up to 2 inches and has a large, orange head with almond-shaped eyes. If left uncontrolled, scientists worry the hornets could threaten honeybees with their ability to wipe out an entire hive.
WSDA asks for people with suspected sightings of Asian giant hornets, dead or alive, to submit a report forum to bit.ly/3cYpOId, email email@example.com or call 800/443-6684.
When reporting a hornet sighting, WSDA asks for people to include their name, contact information, location and date of the sighting, direction the hornet was seen flying away, and a photograph of the hornet. If there is no photograph, WSDA asks for a description of the hornet.