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‘Murder Hornet’ carcass found just across U.S.-Canada border from Whatcom County

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Bellingham — The carcass of an Asian giant hornet was recently found in a Japanese beetle trap across the U.S.-Canada border from Whatcom County, the Washington State Department of Agriculture reported.

The trap was located in British Columbia, “not far from where nests were eradicated in Washington,” the Department of Agriculture reported in a tweet Tuesday, Nov. 2. “The location was well within flight distance from the U.S. nests.”

Those Asian giant hornet nests were located earlier this year in northern Whatcom County east of Blaine and within a mile of the Canadian border.

Because of its proximity to the nests and the timing of when it was located, The Department of Agriculture said it is possible that it came from one of the Whatcom County nests.

“We will be working with B.C. and U.S. federal authorities to attempt to obtain and analyze DNA from the specimen in an attempt to see if the specimen was indeed from a U.S. nest,” the Department of Agriculture said in a follow up tweet.

What are ‘Murder Hornets’?

Commonly known as “Murder Hornets’ and up to 2 inches long, the Asian Giant Hornet, or Vespa mandarinia, is the world’s largest hornet species. They are identifiable by their large yellow/orange heads. The hornets are known for their painful stings.

They will attack people and pets when threatened, and tried to attack the team eradicating their nest in August, though the team’s hornet suits prevented team members from being stung. People should be extremely cautious near them, state agriculture officials have said, and those who have allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings should never approach an Asian giant hornet, according to earlier reporting in The Bellingham Herald.

The invasive hornets are feared for the threat they pose to honeybees and, by extension, the valuable crops in Washington state that the bees pollinate, including blueberry and other cane crops in the region that includes Whatcom County.

They also prey on local pollinators such as wasps, posing a threat to the local ecosystem, state entomologists have said.

Before the sightings that led to the discovery of the two nests in Whatcom County this year, a dead Asian giant hornet was located near Marysville in mid-June.

The Department of Agriculture will continue to trap Asian giant hornets through the end of November, according to a previous news release, adding that instructions on how to build traps can be found on the agency’s website.

The Department of Agriculture’s annual budget for community outreach, tracking and eradication of the Asian giant hornet is approximately $650,000, Spichiger said.

Battling ‘Murder Hornets’

Three nests have been located in the U.S. this year — all within northern Whatcom County:

• A dead Asian giant hornet was located near Marysville in mid-June. The Department of Agriculture has previously said it does not believe that the hornet was related to others found in Whatcom County.

• The first live Asian giant hornet of 2021 was captured in Whatcom County on Aug. 12, and another was captured on Aug. 13. Both were tagged and released by the Department of Agriculture in an effort to locate their nests.

• The Department of Agriculture found 1,500 Asian Giant Hornets in various stages of development when it eradicated the first Asian giant hornet nest of 2021 on Aug. 25 in a rural area of the county east of Blaine.

• Two more live murder hornets were spotted in the same general area of Whatcom County as the first nest was destroyed, the Department of Agriculture reported on Sept. 8.

• The Department of Agriculture reported that it had located and destroyed a second nest on Sept. 13, but a third nest had been located.

• Destruction of that third nest was not completed until Sept. 23, because that nest was located nearly 20 feet up in a tree and special equipment was required to eradicate it. The nest was found to have 10 combs inside.

The Department of Agriculture also reported in mid-September that it received a “concerning” report about a possible Asian giant hornet sighting four miles south of Sumas and east of South Pass Road — a long distance from where the three nests have been found and eradicated this year. No other sightings have been reported by the Department of Agriculture in that area.

In 2020, the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S. was found and destroyed in Whatcom County, and another nest was located and destroyed in 2019 south of Nanaimo, B.C.

Spot a ‘Murder Hornet’?

Washington state residents can report possible sightings of an Asian giant hornet to the state Department of Agriculture online at agr.wa.gov/hornets, via email at hornets@agr.wa.gov, or by calling 800-443-6684.

Take a photo or keep a specimen if you can. They’re needed for confirmation.

Citizen science trapping instructions also are on the website.

More on the department’s Asian giant hornet effort can be found at facebook.com/groups/hornets.

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