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Oct. 20, 2021

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Department of Agriculture destroys another Whatcom County ‘murder hornet’ nest

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BELLINGHAM — The Washington State Department of Agriculture announced that it has destroyed another nest built by Asian giant hornets — commonly referred to as “murder hornets” — in Whatcom County.

The department announced the latest Asian giant hornet nest eradication, which would be its fourth overall and third so far this year, in social media posts on Facebook and Twitter Thursday morning, Sept. 23.

The posts did not say if the nest that was destroyed was the third nest that had been located last week but required special equipment to destroy because it was located approximately 20 feet up in a tree. Late last week, the department posted that it had a “concerning” report about a possible Asian giant hornet sighting that was approximately 20 miles east of where the three nests had been located this year and the first Asian giant hornet nest in the U.S. was destroyed last year.

What the Department of Agriculture did report about the latest nest was that it had 10 combs inside a tree. That would make it the largest, in terms of combs, destroyed so far this year, surpassing the first nest, which the department said had nine combs and more than 1,500 hornets in various stages of development.

“All workers — no males or virgin queens,” the Facebook post reads. “The queen that started the nest had interesting coloring!”

The post also thanked Baker District Trail Steward Dan DeVoe and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources for dropping the tree and safely splitting it open.

What are ‘murder hornets’?

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 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.

Spot a ‘murder hornet’?

Washington 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 1-800-443-6684.

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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