Spokane, Wash. ( Associated Press) — Scientists in Washington will lay about 1,000 traps this year in their quest to wipe out the Asian giant hornet, the state Department of Agriculture said Tuesday.
Scientists believe the hornets, first found in the Pacific Northwest state in 2019, are confined to Whatcom County, which borders Canada north of Seattle.
“We’re doing pretty well right now,” said Sven-Erik Speicher, who is leading the fight to eradicate hornets for the state’s Department of Agriculture. “We know where the nests are located in Whatcom County.”
Insects are the largest hornets in the world, with queens up to 2 inches (5 cm) long. They are considered invasive in North America for their ability to kill other bee and hornet species, thus earning them the nickname “killing hornets”.
Trapped hornets help scientists locate nesting sites. Speicher said the state had wiped out three nests last year near the city of Blaine, Washington, and there have been no confirmed Asian giant hornets nests so far this year.
Most of the traps will be installed in northern Whatcom County, but some will be installed in the city of Bellingham, he said.
The agency is encouraging residents to set up their own nets, and cover more ground.
The agency said the Hornet would not be considered wiped out until Washington went without any identification for three full years. The first confirmed sighting of the Asian Giant Hornet in Washington was in December 2019.
Speicher said the Entomological Society of America is also working to establish an official name for the insect. He added that the Asian giant hornet, or popularly known as the murder hornet, is not an official name.
Hornets can also deliver a painful sting, which can result in death if a person is repeatedly bitten. Asian giant hornets rarely attack humans unless provoked. About 30 to 50 people die annually from Asian giant hornet stings in Japan, one of their native habitats.
Meanwhile, hornets, wasps and bees commonly found in the United States kill an average of 62 people a year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said.
The fight to prevent the Asiatic giant hornet, an apex predator, from gaining a foothold in North America is mostly fought in Whatcom County, Washington, and the nearby Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Whatcom County is approximately 55 miles (88 kilometers) south of Vancouver, British Columbia.
Scientists said another effort is underway to find out where these hornets came from in Asia and how they are moving across the Pacific Ocean. The theory is that they are crossing on cargo ships, officials have said.
Hornet queens emerge from winter quarters in early spring and set up nests for birth worker hornets. Hornets begin attacking and destroying beneficial bees towards the end of the year, devouring the bees for protein as they pick up more hornets.
A small group of Asian giant hornets can kill an entire beehive in a matter of hours. Bees pollinate many crops in Washington’s multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.