BLAINE, Wash. — The first Asian giant hornet nest in the United States was located in Whatcom County, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) announced Friday morning.
WSDA entomologists discovered the nest on private property in Blaine around 4 p.m. Thursday. The nest was found in the cavity of a tree near an area cleared for a residential home, the agency said.
The department said two live hornets were captured in the area Wednesday. Two more live hornets were found in another trap Thursday when staff returned to the area to attach radio trackers to the previously trapped hornets in an attempt to follow the insects back to its nest. WSDA staff attached radio trackers to three of the hornets and followed one to the newly discovered nest.
“Dozens” of hornets were seen entering and exiting the tree while a WSDA team was present. Asian giant hornets typically nest in the ground, but the department said the invasive insects occasionally nest in dead trees.
The WSDA will attempt to eradicate the nest Saturday morning. Experts will seal up the entrance to the nest in the tree and then create a small opening and suck the bees and nest out using a vacuum that will extract them into a chamber. The property owner has given WSDA permission for the nest to be eradicated and for staff to remove the tree if necessary.
"Stopping this cold is very crucial because as everybody knows, manage pollination is a very key component of our agricultural commodities and the systems that we have in place to grow food here in the U.S. And so very important fight," said Sven Spichiger, an entomologist with WSDA, during a press conference Friday afternoon.
The Asian giant hornet was first spotted in Washington state in 2019 and since then the WSDA has been on the hunt for the invasive species, which kills bees and takes the bee larvae to feed their own young.
At least 15 Asian giant hornets have been reported in Whatcom County over the last few months. The state has been attempting to locate nests and eradicate the invasive pest.
Earlier this month, researchers from the WSDA assisted by the University of Washington used dental floss to secure a small Bluetooth device to a live Asian giant hornet that was captured by a resident near Blaine.
The Bluetooth tracker was intended to lead researchers to the hornets' nest. That plan worked, but not for long.
“Unfortunately, we lost the signal but very happy at how well it worked,” said Spichiger. “We were able to get four groups of people surrounding the hornet as she was flying.”
Earlier this month, researchers had tried to attach a tracker to another Asian giant hornet, but the glue prevented the hornet from flying back to its nest.
The WSDA is asking the public to report any Asian giant hornet sightings and is asking residents to pay close attention to the direction of flight, which could help researchers find the location of a nest.
The department asks residents to exercise extreme caution if you see one as their stingers are longer than native bees and hornets, they can sting repeatedly and their venom is more toxic. However, officials said the invasive hornets do not pose a significant threat to humans and pets.
Experts predict that if allowed to fly free, the aggressive and invasive species will only spread throughout the Northwest.