BLAINE, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Agriculture plans to eradicate a live Asian giant hornet nest this week.
Ted McFall, owner of McFall Beeyard, said his honeybees were calm during a hive check on Monday. He said he was relieved to see his bees were accounted for, especially after growing concern of the Asian giant hornet.
"I’ve been living in fear, basically. I mean, it’s very disheartening to never know when the murder hornets are going to show up and slaughter your bees," said McFall. "Murder hornets show up and they just bite the heads off of the honeybees and the honeybees are unable to protect themselves. They’ll try to fight of course, but they’re not going to be able to defeat a murder hornet. It’s really sad."
McFall is a third generation beekeeper in Custer that has never seen anything quite like the invasive hornet. He said he lost his strongest, healthiest colony of about 60,000 bees in 2019.
"That’s when I noticed decapitated bees all over the front of the colony. And as I rummaged through the bodies and I looked at it, I really had no explanation for what it could have been," said McFall.
The beekeeper said, back then, he didn’t know what caused the attack on his honeybees. Shortly after that incident, an Asian Giant Hornet sighting was reported only a few miles away in Whatcom County.
When the Department of Agriculture received reports of the new live nest, which is also close to McFall’s hives, he acted fast.
"We have these little cage devices to put on the front of a hive to slow a slaughter down. The murder hornet will still kill a forager that will come and go, they’ll still kill out a hive that way, but at least we have something to slow them down," said McFall.
State entomologists placed trackers on three hornets and released them between August 11-17. One of the hornets led researchers back to the live nest near Blaine.
McFall said it’s critical finding the invasive bugs while they’re still alive because it’s easier to track and eradicate a colony.
"That’s going to be a huge threat that’s gone," said McFall.
He said he fears the invasive bugs could affect more than just honeybees.
"If murder hornets are left unchecked then they’re going to go through the entire United States and just slaughter bees wherever they want. It’s going to cause food prices to go up because farmers pay me to bring these [bees] to put on their land," said McFall. "[Farmers] expect these bees to be there because if I don’t bring them there, then apples are going to be a lot smaller, blueberries will have a poor yield. It’s going to cost food prices to go up and that’s something that no one wants these days."
He said what everyone can do is help raise public awareness. The state said thanks to a property owner taking a picture and a detailed report of the location, it helped crews find the live nest.
"That’s exactly how they found that nest. A lady recognized a murder hornet on her house and she got a photo of it, sent it to the Department of Agriculture, the department did a bang up job discovering the nest and now they’re going to eradicate it," said McFall.
McFall said the more people know about Asian Giant Hornets and what to look out for, the more honeybees they can help save.
"We don’t want people just seeing some big and start killing things because we don’t want people killing bumble bees, we don’t want people killing cicada killers, we don’t want people killing certain things that we need here," said McFall.
The Department of Agriculture has more information about the hornets and what to keep an eye on. The department captured its first live nest in 2020. Officials said that eradicated nest will be displayed at the Smithsonian Museum.
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