WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. - The Washington State Department of Agriculture is continuing its efforts to eradicate Asian giant hornets and officials unveiled their plans for this year.
Washington State Entomologist Sven-Erik Spichiger said during a Tuesday news conference that in 2021, the department caught about 14 specimens and the first one was found in Snohomish County. The specimen was dead, and there were no additional detections for that area.
The state’s trapping and reports from the public helped detect three nests in 2021, and they were all within two miles of each other, near the Canadian border and just east of Blaine.
"We are still in a very, tightly compact and confined area, which leads us into this season with a bit of optimism that it has not spread to multiple counties and does not appear to be throughout the rest of Whatcom County, which is really good news," Spichiger said.
Trapping and monitoring
For the 2022 season, WSDA will continue trapping in north Whatcom County and also in the Bellingham area, in the southern part of the county.
Researchers will continue to trap in the Bellingham area until the department has three years of negative finds, and 2022 would be the third year. Spichiger noted that in 2020, a single specimen was found and killed on a porch in Bellingham.
"So as long as things continue to go negative in Bellingham, then we will be able to dial back trapping in that area," he said.
Most of the trapping will be confined near the Canadian border this season, and the department plans to set out about 1,000 program traps.
Those who are interested are still encouraged to run their own traps and report their findings to the WSDA.
In June, the department will be launching a new citizen project called the "Adopt a Wasp" project.
This involves adopting a structure with paper wasp nests on their property, reporting the location to WSDA and monitoring once a week to report activity.
It will help officials with activity in the nest and looking to see Asian giant hornet activity.
To get involved with the "Adopt a Wasp" project, click here.
Partnering with international researchers
Spichiger also said the department will be partnering with researchers in South Korea and Japan, and will be testing different traps and different lure combinations.
Their goal is to see if the traps work, test a tracking array that will allow scientists to see how they forage and also see how Queens disperse.
This season, WSDA will also be exploring the use of drone technology and have partnered with an Australian company called Wildlife Drones. This would involve tagging the hornet, have the device go up in the air, allow researchers to get a better GPS signal on the tag and allow them to get to it safely.
Possible name change
The last thing Spichiger spoke about was a possible name change or a first designation of an official name for the Asian giant hornet, which has been a term that has been used but is not an official common name.
A researcher with the program made a suggestion to the Entomological Society of America, who has a committee to designate official common names.
The hornet has been referred to as the Asian Giant Hornet or the Murder Hornet.
A suggestion was submitted and it has been reviewed, but still needs to be examined by the membership for 30 to 90 days.
Spichiger said the department is still waiting for an official answer and the WSDA plans to adopt whatever the Entomological Society of America officially accepts.