The buzz around town is there is no buzz.
Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) wrote in a November 21 statement that state entomologists are leaving empty-handed after wrapping up this year’s search for northern giant hornets, also known as “murder hornets.”
Citizen scientists are scheduled to take down homemade traps November 30 and WSDA workers will follow shortly after in December as they remove 800 traps across Whatcom County.
Despite no hornets being discovered, scientists are cautiously not celebrating. To declare the northern giant hornet eradicated, the state requires three years of no confirmed reports. The last hornet was discovered in Blaine in 2021, meaning the invasive species will be considered eradicated at the end of next year.
“It looks like we’re headed in the right direction but there’s still work to be done,” said Amber Betts, WSDA public information officer. “We still need community support to report sightings, and participate in our citizen science trapping programs.”
WSDA entomologists worked with researchers at Kyungpook National University in South Korea this year to learn more about the species in their native area. The scientists collected data to better understand the hornet’s foraging behavior, colony cycles, behavioral patterns and dispersal behavior of new queens. While the entomologists experienced setbacks, including a typhoon in South Korea, they were able to collect data on the hornets.
The only northern giant hornet nests discovered in the U.S. have been found in east Blaine, with the first nest eradicated in October 2020 and three nests related to “nest zero” eradicated in August and September of 2021.
No hornets were detected in B.C. this year, according to WSDA, and none were reported in 2022. In 2021, one decayed hornet was discovered in B.C., less than one mile from a nest eradicated in east Blaine. Several hornets were confirmed in the Lower Mainland in 2020 and 2019, and a nest was eradicated in Nanaimo in 2019.
Northern giant hornets brought international attention to Blaine in 2020 after they became famous for their ability to decapitate an entire honeybee colony in a matter of hours. The orange-and-black apex predator can grow up to 2 inches, and was reported to sound similar to a hummingbird and feed on paper wasp nests in east Blaine. The queen emerges in the spring and workers become active late summer through fall before becoming inactive during the winter.
Citizen scientists and WSDA will continue trapping this spring.
“It’s possible that we still have hornets out there,” Betts said. “The community support and contributions have been absolutely vital.”
Anyone who thinks they may have seen a hornet can report the sighting online, at agr.wa.gov/hornets, by emailing email@example.com or calling 800/443-6684. Photos should be included, if possible, as well as the specimen if it’s dead.
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